Virginia is one of the states in the US where gambling is restricted within narrow ranges. Winning, acquiring or just cheating in the course of gambling may land you into gambling fraud charges which bear significant penalties. Fortunately, Virginia Criminal Attorney is available and ready to defend you against such charges. Our attorneys are well-versed with gambling-related laws and can evaluate your case and arrange for your legal representation if you are in Fairfax or any city in Northern Virginia.
Legal Definition of Gambling and Gambling Fraud in Virginia
Gambling in Virginia is governed by the Virginia Code 18.2-325. The section describes gambling as placing a bet on the results or outcomes of any contest, game, or sport that is generally based on chance. According to code 18.2-327, winning by fraud, cheating, gaining any advantage fraudulently while gambling is illegal and if accused of it, you will be charged with Gambling Fraud.
Gambling fraud may be committed through various means. For instance, through match fixing, you can be made to play a match whose results have already been determined, hence, taking advantage of you. Similarly, while betting, a scammer can allege to offer you some insider’s information but in exchange, demand that you pay some fees; The outcome, however, may be otherwise, making it a fraud. Also, fraudulent gambling can be achieved through collusion where the scammers merge to form otherwise collusive policies. Cases also exist where deceitful gambling is engineered online. In such a case, a fraudster/ scammer may lure or obtain information of online gaming users and after that, use the information to get the victim's account information, resulting in financial losses.
Moreover, some gambling frauds can be committed through manipulation of the games outcomes. In these cases, the scammer lures you into placing a bet or your money on a particular game and upon noting your choice, goes ahead and manipulate the outcomes so that the results differ from your option. Such fraudulent gambling practices commonly apply to online gambling where you cannot prove the actual outcomes.
Of all the gambling fraud cases in Virginia, online gambling takes the lead. Online gamblers are at high risk, and hence, should be vigilant to avoid falling prey of the fraudsters. They can ensure their safety by adopting the ‘’know your customer rule’’. Under this simple rule, it is a requirement that you understand whom you are gambling with (operator) so that in the event of him or her stealing from you, enough evidence can be sought for charges to be applied. Some of the necessary steps include:
- Checking the membership of the gambling game. While doing this, you can note the presence of public figures and sponsorship from legitimate brands or organizations such as famous sports figures, sports organizations, large corporations, A-list celebrities, or even politicians (although, this may be a rare occurrence). Their existence in the gaming platform implies that the particular game may be safer, and hence, it is less likely that fraudulent acts will occur;
- Keep your personal information away from a third party. While signing up, you are required to indicate your personal information which is aimed at ensuring that your online gambling account is secure. In the event of a platform where such information is unnecessary, be cautious and avoid them. Such insecure operators are precursors of fraudulent activities. To heighten the security of your account further, you can incorporate some additional sophisticated security measures including the email address, fingerprints among other personal information.
Terms Commonly Used in Gambling Fraud Charges or Cases
When faced with gambling fraud charges, it is vital that you know the words that are commonly used so that you can avoid being charged with an offense you did not commit. The knowledge of the terms is also essential as it helps you built a substantial defense and protect your freedom. Some of these terms include:
- Synthetic fraud. This is often used when you create a new and fictitious gambling account and refers to the act of combining both real and fake details to create the account. Upon establishing the account, you used it to obtain gambling credit, or open up more new accounts aiming at reaping any gains associated with the account;
- Operator: This refers to any online gaming or a site that offers gambling activities. You should be aware of your operator and a variety of their information so that you can avoid being conned by fake operators;
- Promotion abuse: The term is often used when you are accused of opening many accounts to take advantage of a promotion(s) given to customers or clients who create new accounts. It is common in online gambling where a person employs the trick to enjoy more of the promotional gifts by himself or herself;
- New account fraud: Applies when you are accused of using stolen identities (synthetic) to come up with new gambling accounts. Through the accounts, you build several little credit transactions which upon hitting maximum value, you use them to acquire loans or new cards. Such is a form of fraud as you will end up obtaining financial advantages that, in an actual sense, should not have been possible;
- Loyalty fraud. The term is commonly used when the gambling fraud charges you are facing revolves around taking another trusted person account (loyal customer). Upon taking the account, you gained access to the loyalty points or bonus then sold them elsewhere or used them to make your purchases.
- Credit card or a written off credit The term is used where a gambling fraud offense you committed involved the use of credit card as a means of paying transaction. The fraudster, in this case, used the process to obtain information that can be used in acquiring gambling benefits without paying. The means can also be used to withdraw or get another person’s money from their accounts.
Elements of Crime for Gambling Fraud Charges in Virginia
Gambling fraud charges, like any other crime, possess some aspects that make it distinct and a punishable offense. The prosecution must prove the presence of these elements before the court convicts you. Failure to prop the charges will ultimately result in dismissal. These elements include:
Existence of intent
Gambling fraud charges will hold if, during the incident, you intentionally and willingly cheated or misled another person so that you can be able to gain some monetary or material benefit from him or her. For instance, you promised somebody that you would offer “winning” tips in a casino. However before availing the tips, you demanded some fee, and according to you, you intended to have him/ her lose.
For you to be charged with fraud, Virginia law demands that the person who is alleging to have been defrauded relied on the information that you provided. For example, while gambling, you convinced somebody that upon placing his or her money on a specific slot, winning would be guaranteed. If the person reasonably believed in you and did as you directed but lost, you would be charged with gambling fraud. Using convincing language implies that you knew of the outcome and that you just had a hidden intention of gaining something from the victim who was believing in you.
Virginia law further demands that, for you to be charged with fraud, the alleged victim must have suffered some damages arising from your wrong statement. As such, if while gambling, somebody believed in your wrong advice and ended up losing money or any other valuable asset, you may liable for gambling fraud charges.
Misrepresentation of a material fact
While committing the fraudulent gambling acts, there must have been material facts that were falsely represented. The false representation could be in the form of fabrication or hiding of the reality. Often, if the truth were known to the victim at the initial stage, you would not have been able to defraud them since the contract could have been terminated. Perhaps the alleged gambler would not have placed the amount on the game in question – the reality was only made available after the victim has suffered a loss.
Penalties for Gambling Fraud in Virginia
Virginia code 18.2-327 outlines the penalties for a person accused of winning fraudulently. The section demands that if you are charged with the offense involving acquiring any benefit in the form of money or any valuable fraudulently, you be punished with a fine whose value should not exceed ten (10) times the amount you have won. For instance, if you have fraudulently earned one thousand (1000) dollars, you will be required to pay a fine of ten thousand (10000) dollars. The lowest fine for this offense should be five times the won amount.
Besides the obvious legal penalties, gambling fraud charges, like any fraud charge, can have further negative impacts. The effects could be immediate or long-term. For instance, while looking for employment, the intended employer may require a background investigation on your criminal history. In the event of the fraud charges, otherwise considered moral turpitude, you may end up losing the opportunity. Any future clearance will also be in jeopardy whenever you bear any fraud charges in your history.
Furthermore, because fraud charges are viewed in Virginia as crimes of moral turpitude, your emigration and immigration chances are significantly hampered. For instance, if you are to come to Virginia and you have pending cases of gambling fraud from other States, the state will not welcome you. Likewise, the State of your choice that you would wish to migrate to may not be ready to accept you with the underlying history of fraud charges.
What are the Possible Legal Defense for Gambling Fraud Charges in Virginia?
Whenever you are faced with gambling charges, you should seek a legal representative immediately. The attorney will try to fight for your freedom by either having the allegations against you dismissed or by having the severity of the penalties reduced. Though you can achieve the results yourself, maneuvering legal procedures could be technical, hence, a need to have an attorney. While representing you, the lawyer may apply any of the following strategies:
There are circumstances when the government after suspecting cases of Illegal gambling, sent an impromptu search and seizure. Under such a situation, you may be innocently compelled to have committed a gambling fraud or a related offense. This is a case of entrapment, and you can use it as your defense strategy.
No intent to commit fraud
For gambling fraud to qualify as a fraud, the action is supposed to have been done with an intention to cheat and gain the monetary or material benefit. You can claim that your actions were not intentional. Perhaps, you never knew that the game you were playing encompasses fraud.
Your defense lawyer can dismiss the available evidence linking you to gambling fraud on the grounds of legality or even presence of reasonable doubt. The strategy is most applied because most of the gambling fraudulent acts leave no evidence that can be used to indicate that you engaged in fraudulent acts.
You can challenge the allegedly fraudulent statements
There can be a situation where you can be charged with gambling fraud just because of comments you make either by actions, writing, or orally. Your attorney can build a reasonable defense by arguing that the comments you made were just opinions and not meant to cause actual fraudulent actions. The lawyer can also claim that you made the alleged deceptive acts or statements unaware that they could be viewed as a fraud. For example, when you generated a fictitious gambling account using fake details you did not intend on gaining bonuses illegally.
Offenses Related to Gambling Fraud in Virginia
Some of the charges related to gambling carry harsher penalties than gambling fraud; others are a bit lenient, and usually, apply as a way of extending some mercy to you. Some of these charges include:
- Virginia Code 18.2-328; Operating or Conducting Prohibited Gambling
This is a class 6 felony and applies if it is established that you operate an illegal gambling activity. If the prohibited gambling activity you are accused of engaging in has existed for a duration of more than thirty (30) days, or if your gross daily income is 2000 dollars and above, you will be required to pay a fine not exceeding twenty thousand dollars and serve a prison term of between one and ten years. ‘Gross’ income or revenue here implies the total value of money that is exchanged while placing or receiving in the course of gambling.
- Participating or Engaging in Illegal Gambling
Va. Code 18.2-326 views it as a crime for you to participate in interstate gambling and illegal gambling. Interstate gambling refers to the act of purchasing or selling an out of state lottery ticket within Virginia. Illegal gambling refers to the act of making or placing a bet in the state of Virginia that is accomplished by use of money exchanged for an unplanned winning of another amount of money or value. Any item of significant value equal to cash can be used instead of cash. If you are accused of this offense, your charge would be treated as a class 3 misdemeanor. In case you were in a group engaging in illegal gambling, the same charge will be pressed against each one of you, with similar penalties.
Not all gambling games are illegal in Virginia. In fact, there exist a range of gambling options that are allowed; For instance, off-track betting and horse racing are legal. The games, however, are supposed to be conducted in facilities which are licensed. The State also has legalized a variety of charitable gambling run by nonprofit driven organizations. Some of these gambling acts include raffles, bingo, and dog racing.
Moreover, the state of Virginia allows and even sponsors some lottery that features a variety of games including Powerball, mega millions, and scratch cards. The benefits from such legalized gambling activities are used to support public education on a K-12 level – a likely reason why gambling is legalized
- Owner of Illegal Gambling Premise
Under Virginia Code 18.2-329, you are charged with a class 1 misdemeanor if you allow illegal gambling to be exercised in your premises. The law also punishes anybody either as a tenant, lessees, or the actual owner of the building so long as the person is in control of the structure. If you are charged with this offense and found guilty, the punishments will include a one year in jail and a fine of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars. However, before you are charged with the offense, the prosecution must first confirm that you were aware of the illegal gambling being undertaken within the premises, but you never took any legal action.
Find A Gambling Fraud Attorney Near Me
The penalties associated with gambling fraud and associated charges are a detriment to your freedom and future. The defense procedure is also technical and time-consuming, thus, a reason to worry. If you are accused of gambling fraud, seek legal help promptly. If you are in Fairfax or the greater Northern Virginia, you can call 703-718-5533 to speak to an experienced gambling fraud attorney from the Virginia Criminal Attorney law firm.