Fraud entails deliberately deceiving a person, business, or any institution for an unfair gain or even to deprive another person of their legal rights. Fraud can also be charged as a civil offense (whereby the fraud victim files a complaint against the fraudulent person to prevent them from committing fraud or for monetary compensation) or a criminal offense (where the perpetrator can be persecuted, fined and/or imprisoned). Fraud cases are increasing and so, if you are facing fraud charges, you need legal help. Virginia Criminal Attorney may be of great help to ensure you are getting the best legal defense possible. We are here to serve all clients in Fairfax, VA, and the entirety of Northern Virginia.

Legal Definition of Fraud under Virginia State Law

In Virginia, fraud is located under Section 18.2 of the General Offenses and Crimes as well as Chapter 6 of the Crimes that Involve Fraud. The number of these types of cases in the state is increasing every day, and most of them fall under Class 1 misdemeanor crimes. As mentioned above, fraud can be treated as a civil or criminal offense. This depends on the specific elements of the crime that you are charged with. To help you understand fraud better, it is essential to address the following common forms of fraud in Virginia.

Check Fraud

  1. Check Fraud

    The Bad Check Law in the state of Virginia is clear under Codes 18.2-172, 18.2-178, 18.2-181.1, and 18.2-181, and it states that issuance of bad checks should be treated as a Class 6 felony for all persons or a misdemeanor depending on the value of the check presented. Issuance of a bad check in the state is treated as knowingly attempting to defraud another person. This offense is committed when one:

    • Makes, draws or delivers a check when they are aware that the account does not have sufficient funds,

    • Writes a check on an account that doesn't exist, or

    • Writes a check on a closed account.

    All these instances will be treated as larceny and appropriate actions and consequences will be taken against the perpetrator.

    Section 18.2-182 of the Virginia Laws also criminalizes the issuance of bad checks by businesses. This could happen if a business writes a check on an account with insufficient funds for payments of labor or wages with an aim of defrauding the check recipient. If the worth of the written check is below $200, then the crime will be treated as a misdemeanor; but if the worth of the check is more than $200, then the offense will automatically become a felony.

  2. Forgery

    Forgery entails any crime in which a person allegedly falsified something so as to deceive another person. This may include check forgery, documents forgery, or forgery of a signature on documents such as contracts. Forgery can be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Some common forgery cases include:

    • Forgery of public records, returns, certificates or attestations belonging to a public employee/officer. Such documents or information may be forged with the purpose of using them as legal proof,

    • Keeping materials used for the purposes of forgery, for instance, if a person is found in possession of the seal belonging to a public office, the Commonwealth of Virginia, corporate entity, court, or any political entity, and

    • Forgery of coins and banknotes. People found guilty of selling, exchanging, delivering or offering to sell, deliver or exchange forged banknotes and coins for the purpose of using those bills and coins as the true ones may be face Class 4 felony charges.

  3. False pretenses

    Use of false pretenses entails tricking, lying, or intentionally misrepresenting yourself with the intention of obtaining property, money, or just the title of another party. A person found guilty of false pretenses in Virginia is also guilty of theft/larceny. Again, this crime can be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of what is lost. If for instance, the value of what has been lost through false pretenses is below $200, the case will be charged as petit larceny. An example of such a crime will be the use of a fake check to buy goods or to obtain cash. If on the other hand, the value of what has been lost is more than $200, it will be treated as grand larceny or a felony, which could attract a higher fine and prison term.

    If a person used false pretenses to obtain a signature of another person and then the signature was used for forgery, then the perpetrator is guilty of a Class 4 felony. Again, if a person was able to design a signature of another person with a purpose of using it for forgery, or he/she was found in possession of tools used for designing forgery with the intention of using those tools to create a forgery, he/she will be guilty of a Class 4 felony under Virginia laws.

  4. Identity Theft

    According to Virginia Code 18.2-186.3, there are many types of identity theft, categorized according to the intent or purposes behind the crime. A person will steal the identity of another for their own personal use, with the intention of selling that personal data to another person, or with the intention of meddling in a criminal inquiry.

    The kind of information that is likely to be stolen includes people’s names, birth dates, driver’s license number, social security numbers, bank account information, personal identification numbers (PIN), debit or credit card numbers, electronic identification encryptions, electronic or automated signatures, fingerprints, biometric data, and passwords.

    This covers any data that could be used to gain access to another person’s identification and financial records and can be used to obtain products or services, money, or credit.

    The first section of Code 18.2-186 of Virginia Laws states that it is unlawful for a person to do the following without the consent of another person (victim) for the purposes of defrauding the victim or another third party:

    • Obtain the victim's personal information that is not publicly available, which might help him/her access the financial records of the victim, forge identification papers, or even enjoy any kinds of benefits meant for the victim,

    • Obtain money, products or services, loans or credit by the use of the victim's personal information,

    • Acquire identification documents, all in the name of the victim, or

    • Gain access to the victim's identification information while pretending to be a law administration officer or a state officer.

    The second section of the same law makes it illegal for a person to obtain personal information of another person (victim), without the consent of the victim, for the purpose of selling or distributing that data to another person.

    The second part (B2) of the second section of the above law makes it illegal for a person to use the personal documents or personal information of another person (victim), whether they are alive, fictitious, and dead, to avoid being arrested, legal summons, and trial or to obstruct legal justice or criminal investigation.

    Again, whether the case will be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony will depend on the value of what has been lost in identity theft.

  5. Credit-Card Fraud

    This crime is covered under Codes 18.2-195.1 and 18.2-195. The latter is the law that covers criminals that attempt to defraud a merchant or a cardholder as well as those that attempt to defraud a credit-card company. Credit cards, in this case, include all debit and prepaid cards.

    You can be charged with credit-card fraud if you:

    • Use a credit card/a credit-card number of a revoked or an expired card knowingly, to buy goods, pay for services or acquire any valuable thing,

    • Are found to use another person's credit-card or credit-card number without their consent,

    • If you are found to use a credit card number that hasn’t been issued yet, to obtain money, pay for products or services or anything else of value,

    • If you are using a credit card/credit-card number as collateral or security for a debt, or

    • If you get money from a merchant or credit card company when you know too well that the money you have obtained is way beyond your allocated credit or the money available as advance.

    A person can also be charged with credit-card fraud if:

    • They knowingly give money, products, or services to a person in possession of a stolen, expired or revoked credit card with the intent of defrauding the credit card company,

    • They refuse to give money, products, or services to a cardholder with an expired, revoked or stolen credit card but they tell the credit-card company that the money, products, or services were given, or

    • They knowingly charge a credit-card more than authorized or allowed amount.

    Under credit-card fraud also known as credit card factoring– is a crime that occurs when a person presents a transaction record of a false credit-card number to a credit-card issuer/merchant with the intent of defrauding the issuer, merchant, or the credit card holder.

  6. Securities Fraud

    This is the term used to describe illegal activities pertaining to investments, trade, and sale of bonds and stocks plus other securities. In such a case, a perpetrator may have used deceptive behavior to sway other people to take certain actions regarding securities, which might have resulted in great financial losses. Some of the criminal activities associated with securities fraud include investment fraud such as Ponzi or pyramid schemes, insider trading, and accounting fraud.

    This type of fraud is enclosed under Sections:

    • 13.1-502 (Illegal sales/offers): this law prohibits any person that is selling any type of security directly or indirectly from employing any scheme to defraud investors,

    • 13.1-503 (Illegal advice): this is the law that prohibits any person that is advising another person (victim) in regards to the value, sale, or purchase of securities to use any scheme with the intent of defrauding the victim,

    • 13.1-504 (Unlawful registration): this law covers people who do registrations on behalf of investors, including agents and stock brokers.

  7. Money laundering

    Section 18.2-246.3 of Virginia laws prohibit any person to knowingly conduct any kind of financial transaction where they know too well that the property involved in that transaction is a profit of an illegal activity that is considered a felony. The law also prevents people from compensating or converting money into electronic funds when they know too well that the money was acquired illegally. If a person violates the above regulations, they may face money laundering charges.

Possible Consequences of a Fraud Conviction

Virginia law is very particular on what actionable fraud entails, which basically is, the defendant knowingly and intentionally making a false representation just so they can mislead another person/party, consequently leading to the other part suffering damages/losses. The penalties for fraud are determined by the nature of the specific crime, with some crimes being misdemeanors and others being treated as felonies.

  • Crimes such as impersonating a state officer or a law enforcement officer can attract a jail term of up to one year and a fine of $2,500. This is basically a Class 1 misdemeanor case.

  • A Class 4 felony, on the other hand, can attract a prison term of between 2-10 years and fines that can go up to $100,000. An example of a fraud crime that would attract these penalties is obtaining a signature or money by false pretenses. For a case of money laundering, the offense is more severe and can attract a prison sentence of 40 years, with a fine of as much as $500,000.

  • A class six felony is punishable with up to five years in prison plus a fine that can go up to $2500. An instance of a fraud crime that could be punished this way is the issuance of bad checks. However, if the worth of the check issued is less than $200, then the crime will be charged as misdemeanor Class 1

  • Some of these convictions will have long-term effects on your life. You may serve a short jail term or not end up in jail at all, but your family and society will always have a hard time trusting you. Some of these convictions may show up in the background checks conducted by potential employers or loan lenders and this may make it hard for you to secure decent employment or even financial aid to cater your education needs.

  • In cases where fraud is treated as a civil crime, civil penalties will apply. If for instance, you are guilty of knowingly lying to another person and as a result, they suffered damages, they may sue you in a civil court.

There are fraud cases that go beyond the state borders and also those that involve a federally-insured bank or a state agency. These will be prosecuted in a Federal Court.

General Elements that Prosecutors Use to Prove Fraud Charges

To be charged with fraud in a court of law, a prosecutor has to prove beyond doubt that the defendant had actually misrepresented facts, that this was done intentionally for the purposes of causing loss or damage to another party, and that the affected party had fully relied on the said information. If the prosecutor cannot prove these elements, the defendant may have the case dismissed.

To prove the above elements, the prosecutor might interrogate witnesses and/or the alleged victim and analyze their statements concerning the case. In some cases, prosecutors can use statements that the defendant has made to the police or the alleged victim. Additionally, other evidence for fraud can be solicited from banking statements, credit card statements, or any other data collection and storage methods.

What are the Common Mistakes that People Make in Fraud Cases?

There are several mistakes that alter the outcome of a fraud case. The first mistake is talking to investigators, loss prevention officers, victims, or even family and friends about the situation of the case. Usually, prosecutors will use any statement that a defendant makes to support the fraud charges. Thus, it is crucial to remain silent to avoid creating new evidence that might incriminate you, of course, with the exception when discussing the issue with your fraud attorney.

Another common mistake is attempting to handle the case single-handedly, without the help of an private attorney. From the moment you are accused of fraud, you should consult with an attorney who will scrutinize the situation and shape the investigation process. In fact, the attorney might be able to stop the accusations from getting into the prosecution hands after interacting with the investigators and prosecutor and agreeing on an out-of-court settlement.

Find A Fraud Attorney Near Me

If you are facing criminal fraud charges, you will need the help of a criminal defense attorney. This is because some of these charges attract long prison terms and heavy fines. Besides, your reputation and chances of getting a job or credit may be affected and you may never be able to go back to your former lifestyle once you are convicted of fraud. It is essential to work with an attorney who will get your charges lowered, and Virginia Criminal Attorney law firm is competent enough to handle these types of criminal fraud charges. Call our Fairfax criminal defense lawyer today at 703-718-5533 for a free consultation.