Understanding Charges of Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
Many people are familiar with the term fraud and what it involves. Few, however, know that a person can actually be convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, which unlike actual fraud, does not deal with attempting to defraud another person, but with the intention or agreement between two or more parties to engage in fraudulent activity at a future date. In fact, a person can be charged with this offense even if he or she never actually completed the fraudulent activity in question. However, under this definition, a person who acts alone to commit fraud cannot be charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, as the offense requires an agreement between at least two people. If you are being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, you may be facing fines and prison sentences in addition to penalties assessed for actually committing fraud. For help defending yourself against these types of claim, please contact a white collar crime lawyer who can help ensure that your interests are protected.
Conspiracy to Commit Fraud: A Crime of Intention
Conspiracy to commit fraud is essentially a crime of intention, so prosecutors must prove that:
- The defendant intended to commit a fraud-related offense, regardless of whether he or she actually went through with it; and
- The defendant conspired with at least one other party to commit the offense.
Because proving intent is such an important element to this offense, any evidence demonstrating that a defendant was not aware of a conspiracy and so could not have participated in it could prove crucial to the outcome of a case. Defendants can also avoid conviction by providing evidence that:
- Although they were initially involved in the conspiracy, they later chose to abandon it; or
- The actions resulting from the conspiracy wouldn’t have constituted a crime, making it legally impossible for them to be guilty.
Coming to an Agreement
There does not need to be direct evidence of an agreement for two people to be convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud. For instance, it is not necessary for prosecutors to provide proof of a written or oral agreement. Instead, it is only necessary to prove that the parties knew of the conspiracy, purposefully associated themselves with it, or agreed to cooperate in its objective. However, this also means that mere knowledge of a conspiracy’s existence or an association with individuals who were engaged in fraudulent activity is not enough to satisfy the definition of an agreement.
Committing an Overt Act
Besides proving that a defendant intended to and came to an agreement with at least one other person to commit fraud, prosecutors must also demonstrate that the individuals in question took a step towards committing the crime. The step must be overt in nature, but does not itself need to be illegal to qualify.
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Conspiracy to commit fraud charges can have devastating consequences, even if a person never actually went through with the underlying offense. Please call Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in Miami at 305-670-9919 to begin working on your own defense in Miami.