Property fraud is one of the fastest growing forms of white collar crime in the nation. Unfortunately, this means that many innocent investors are accused of committing property fraud every year, which can have devastating consequences, so if you are being investigated for property fraud, it is critical to contact an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help defend your interests.
Property Fraud Defined
A person has committed property fraud if he or she uses someone else’s property for financial gain illegally and without that person’s knowledge. However, there are a variety of types of activity that fall under the category of property fraud, including:
- Flipping a property and then selling it a short time later at an inflated price after making false representations about its condition or value;
- Selling properties at a discount that are not yet built if appropriate steps have not been taken, such as re-zoning or beginning construction;
- Offering to renovate or manage a property and claiming good returns from rental income when profits will not be forthcoming;
- Selling an investment that is secured by a piece of property without recording the deed;
- Promising unrealistically high returns through property investment at little or no risk to investors;
- Improperly transferring property or making false promises to convince someone else to sell a piece of property;
- Transferring title to a property in order to inflate its value; and
- Using straw buyers.
These types of property fraud offenses can be charged in either state or federal court. Furthermore, in some cases, federal charges for bank fraud can also be filed if the transaction is viewed as part of an attempt to defraud a financial institution. If convicted of this offense, a person faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
Formulating a Strong Defense
Unfortunately, in many cases, people are unfairly accused of committing property fraud as a result of another broker’s illegal activity, an innocent mistake or oversight, or a buyer’s remorse. However, even when charges are filed, defendants can raise a series of defenses that can help establish their innocence, including that they:
- Lacked fraudulent intent;
- Had consent from the owner to buy or sell the property;
- Are the victim of mistaken identity; or
- Are the victim of false accusations resulting from a buyer’s or seller’s frustration.
Having the advice of an experienced attorney can be critical to the outcome of a case. For instance, an attorney can advise a defendant on whether he or she should accept a plea bargain or enter into negotiations with the prosecutor.
Call an Experienced South Florida White Collar Crime Attorney
South Florida is one of the most profitable and thriving hubs for real estate investment in the nation. Unfortunately, this means that there is more opportunity for accusations of property fraud, so if you are facing fraud-related charges, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can explain your legal options.