Scheme to Defraud (Organized Fraud)


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
helps people defend against
Scheme To Defraud (Organized Fraud)
allegations.

Organized Fraud, or commonly referred to as a Scheme to Defraud, involves an allegation of ongoing fraud.  This is a very general law that encompasses many different possible courses of conduct.  Give us a call to discuss your Scheme to Defraud case.
What is Scheme to Defraud (Organized Fraud)?

Scheme to Defraud (Organized Fraud) is defined in Florida Statute Section 817.034(4)(a).  To prove a Scheme to Defraud, the State must prove:
  • You engaged in a scheme to defraud, and
  • you thereby obtained property. 

A "scheme to defraud" means a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud one or more person, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.


What does "willfully" mean?

"Willfully" means intentionally, purposeful, and with knowledge.


What does "obtain" mean?

"Obtain" means to temporarily or permanently deprive any person of the right to property or a benefit therefrom, or to appropriate the property to one's own use or to the use of any other person not entitled thereto.  
What is considered "property?

"Property" means anything of value, and includes:
  • Real property, including things growing on, affixed to, or found in land,
  • tangible or intangible personal property, including rights, privileges, interests, and claims, and
  • services. 

What does "value" mean?

"Value" means value determined according to any of the following:
  • the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense, or
  • if market value cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense. 

If the exact value cannot be determined, then a minimum value should be found.  If a minimum value cannot be determined, then the value should be determined to be less than $20,000. 


What are the potential sentences for Schemes to Defraud?

Value of $50,000 or more
Up to 30 years in prison

Value of $20,000 or more, but less than $50,000
Up to 15 years in prison

Value of less than $20,000
Up to 5 years in prison

*  This value is determined by aggregating the value of all property obtained during the entire scheme, so if you fraudulently obtained $500 from 100 victims over the course of 12 months, the value would by $50,000, and you would be facing up to 30 years in prison. 


What if I communicate with the listed victim in the course of the communication?

The Legislature has made it a separate crime for each time that you communicate with the victim in the course of committing the scheme to defraud.

"Communicate" means to transmit or transfer or to cause another to transmit or transfer signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligences of any nature in whole or in part by mail, or by wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photoptical system. 

Value at $300 or more
Up to 5 years

Value at less than $300
Up to 1 year

* Under this portion of the statute, you do not have to actually obtain the property to be convicted, the crime is in the communication with the intent to obtain the property, so if you communicated with the victim and attempted to fraudulently obtain $150 or $150 worth of property, you would face up to 1 year in jail, whether you actually obtained it or not.

What are the possible defenses to Scheme to Defraud?

There are many different defenses to a Scheme to Defraud charge, but the most common is that there was no intent to defraud. Many common Scheme to Defraud cases involve one person contracting with many people to perform a service.  When that service is not provided or there is a dispute as to whether the service provided was the service contracted for, the State may call this fraud.  However, they must prove that you intended not to provide the service or to provide a service not contracted for.  If you intended to provide the service at the time, but outside forces prevented you from completing the service, you may have the defense of lack of intent.  Many of these cases should be litigated in civil court and not criminal court. 

Another common defense is the Statute of Limitations. The State must bring a Scheme to Defraud prosecution within 5 years of the act.  If you are out of the State of Florida for any of that period of time or your residence or work within the State is not reasonably ascertainable, the period can be extended for an additional year.  After these time periods run, it is an affirmative defense and your attorney can file a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations. 

There are many fact specific defenses.  Give us a call so we can discuss possible defenses to your case. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of
Scheme to Defraud (Organized Fraud),

Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon Now!

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)
 
or

407-228-2019
(Orlando). 


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