In Florida, when individuals are accused of defrauding others by concealing their identity and sending personalized sale messages to unsuspecting victims, they can be charged under the state’s organized fraud statute. Organized fraud is considered a felony offense, so if convicted, defendants face serious penalties, which makes it critical for those who have been accused of fraud to have a solid defense. To speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney about your own arrest or charges, please contact a member of our legal team today to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a dedicated lawyer.
What is a Scheme to Defraud?
According to Florida law, a scheme to defraud involves a systematic and ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud someone or obtain property by false pretenses. A variety of different practices fall under this broad definition, including:
- Phishing schemes, in which a sender impersonates a valid company to obtain information from the recipient;
- Telemarketing, when the caller attempts to convince a person to buy something over the phone; and
- Spoofing, which is a form of market manipulation that involves convincing others to believe that there are large orders for future contracts in order to prompt them into making trades, which then artificially drives up prices.
Although Florida law specifically prohibits using email, phones, or computers to perpetuate organized fraud, prosecutors are not required to prove that a defendant used one of these forms of communication. Instead, prosecutors only need to prove that the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud someone else and obtained property as a result. This includes anything of value, such as real property, tangible assets, intangible property, such as rights and interests, and services.
The severity of the penalties faced by a defendant who has been convicted of organized fraud depends on the value of the property involved. For example, if the value of the property or assets in question was below $20,000, the offense is considered a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. If, on the other hand, the amount exceeded $20,000, but was less than $50,000, the defendant faces second degree felony charges, which could mean up to 15 years in prison. Finally, those who collected more than $50,000 can be charged with a first degree felony, which is punishable by 30 years in prison. It’s also important to note that the value of all property obtained in one scheme will be added together to determine the grade of the offense, even if the sales were conducted by several people.
Those who are convicted of using communication to defraud another face five years in prison, as long as the property was valued at more than $300. Even if the assets were worth less than $300, a defendant could still be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.
Contact a Member of our White Collar Crime Legal Team Today
If you have been accused of participating in organized fraud, please call Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to speak with a white collar crime attorney who can evaluate your case for free. Our South Florida attorneys can walk you throughout each step of the process.