Fraud Crimes

In the internet age, law enforcement agencies have taken a harder approach to fraud crimes. Although fraud isn’t a violent crime, such cases are sometimes treated more harshly because of the violation of trust at the heart of every fraudulent activity. Because the guidelines for fraud are broad, there are various categories of fraud covered under Minnesota and federal law. This makes the laws complex and overwhelming. But you do not have to face it alone. Get a skilled Minnesota fraud defense attorney who understands the ins and outs of fraud laws. The attorneys at Ringstrom Law can work to protect your rights, your good name, and your future.

Become acquainted with the following information to have a better understanding of Minnesota fraud laws and how an experienced criminal defense lawyer could help with your situation.

What is a Fraud Crime?

Fraud is an umbrella term for various offenses intended to swindle someone. It’s an offense that involves deception or misinterpretation to deprive another person of money or property for the offender’s personal gain. Fraud usually involves financial matters and can take various forms, such as writing false checks, using another person’s credit card without their consent, or forging another person’s signature on important legal documents. In some cases, even the mere possession of fake notes or items is enough to lead to a fraud conviction.

Fraud is a serious crime, and if you’re under investigation or facing fraud charges, you need to take immediate action to protect your rights, your reputation, and your life. To be charged with a fraud offense in Minnesota, it must be shown that you have used falsehoods, lies, dishonesty, or deception to try to gain some kind of benefit. Often referred to as white-collar crimes, fraud generally involves:

  • An individual or organization knowingly misinterpreting an important fact
  • The intent of fooling the victim
  • The victim believing and relying on the misinterpretation
  • The victim suffering a loss as a result

Fraudulent acts are usually driven by the desire to escape criminal culpability or financial gain. Fraud crimes in Minnesota can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the specific facts of a case and the defendant’s criminal history. Some fraud cases, however, are automatic felonies. What’s more, many fraud offenses are also considered to be federal crimes, which means that you could be prosecuted in both state and federal courts, subjecting you to additional penalties. Furthermore, a fraud conviction could subject legal resident aliens to deportation. There’s the potential repercussion of professional license suspension and revocation. And the government may validly seize any property or money associated with the fraudulent activity.

Common Types of Minnesota Fraud Offenses

There are a number of ways that a person can be considered to have committed a credit card fraud offense. Several examples include:

  • Using another person’s credit card without their consent or knowledge

  • Using, obtaining, taking, selling, signing, or buying another person’s credit card or debit card information

  • Producing, distributing, or using forged credit cards using numbers purchased online or obtained with a skimmer device

  • Using a credit card that you know has been illegally obtained or stolen

Because credit card offenses can easily cross state lines, this offense can be prosecuted at both state and federal levels. A person can face a felony conviction and could potentially end up serving time in a state or federal prison.

Insurance providers are often the target of fraud schemes. Some people attempt to obtain insurance payments or benefits by filing false or fraudulent claims in the hope that their insurance provider will make the payments without doing any investigations. But before an insurer pays a claim, they usually employ claim adjustors and investigators to analyze the validity of a claim and build cases against customers who may be involved in a fraud scheme. Minnesota takes insurance fraud very seriously, and due to the high number of insurance fraud cases that occur each year, prosecutorial agencies have special units dedicated to prosecuting such cases.

Insurance fraud cases can involve life insurance fraud, auto insurance fraud, worker’s compensation fraud, healthcare fraud, Medicaid fraud, unemployment insurance fraud, homeowner’s insurance fraud, and insurance fraud due to arson, among others. Examples of insurance fraud include:

  • inflating the price of a claim

  • staging an accident

  • setting fire to your property and reporting it stolen

  • over-billing for medical service rendered or billing for services not provided

  • receiving kickbacks for prescribing certain drugs

  • collecting unemployment insurance in two or more states or falsifying your work-search efforts

  • trying to secure fraudulent welfare benefits

  • exaggerating the extent of the injury or faking an injury to receive worker’s compensation insurance

Insurance fraud charged as felonies, and you could face high fines and prison time if convicted. In addition, the defendant may be required to pay restitution to the victim.

The offense of money laundering is committed when a person knowingly organizes, initiates, plans, directs, finances, or engages in business for the purpose of concealing an illegal source of funds or property. This means that a person gains funds as a direct result of a felony and uses another business to make it appear as if the money is acquired by legitimate means. For instance, a sex trafficker uses a modeling agency as a “front” for a money-laundering scheme. He cleans the money acquired from sex trafficking through a complex sequence of commercial transactions or banking transfers to make it look like it came from the modeling agency.

Although money laundering is considered a white-collar crime, it is a very serious offense. What’s more, charges can be filed at the federal level if the alleged money laundering activities crossed state lines. A conviction for money laundering in Minnesota can result in major consequences, including incarceration and costly fines.

Many fraud schemes involve the use of falsified signatures or stamps, fake documents, and other phony instruments. Such offenses can be as simple as forging a signature on a will or contract, and can also be as sophisticated as using computer technology to changer routing numbers or account numbers on checks. A forgery offense against an elderly person can form the basis for criminal charges of elder abuse. Forgery can also be filed in connection with check fraud and credit card fraud, where the defendant is accused of forging signatures on receipts or checks or fabricating credit cards or checks.

A person can also be charged with aggravated forgery if with intent to defraud, alters or makes public records, official seals, court documents, records of accounts of a public body or officer, or records of a bank or person with whom state funds have been entrusted. Forgery in Minnesota is often filed as a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Aggravated forgery is punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $20,000.

The offense of embezzlement involves a misuse of another person’s property. This occurs when you’re suspected of stealing the money or property you had lawful possession of due to your job, position, or role. A person is considered to be an embezzler when he/she breaches the trust when they use the money or property for their own personal gain. As provided by Section 609.54 of Minnesota’s constitution, a person in the position of safeguarding state funds must provide security and keep an accurate entry of each payment and transfer. They must also not convert the funds for their own use, including loans, transfer, or deposits other than in the name of the state of Minnesota. Failure to comply with these conditions can result in felony embezzlement charges.

Real estate and mortgage fraud cases have become a growing issue in the country recently, and prosecutors have begun to put more focus on the issue. Real estate fraud involves knowingly misinterpreting or concealing information in connection with a real estate transaction. An investigation into a real estate fraud case may also lead to additional charges of tax fraud or bankruptcy fraud.

There are two main categories of real estate fraud:

  • Fraud for housing: When homebuyers lie on mortgage applications, submitting incomplete or accurate information, using stolen identities, or misrepresenting income in order to qualify for a loan or get favorable terms.

  • Fraud for profit: Involves those who work in the mortgage industry, such as mortgage brokers, appraisers, loan originators, and real estate attorneys, use their professional knowledge to inflate appraisals, create straw purchasers, falsify supporting documents and give kickbacks on mortgages.

Common types of mortgage fraud include foreclose rescue offers, builder bailouts, illegal property flipping, air loans, loan modification offers, equity stripping, straw buyers, fraudulent supporting loan documentation, and first-time buyer rebate schemes. Real estate fraud is vigorously investigated and punished. If you’ve been charged with mortgage fraud, consult with a Minnesota mortgage fraud attorney at Ringstrom Law as soon as possible.

Wire fraud is defined as a scheme to deprive of property by using any writings, signals, pictures, signs, or sounds transmitted by wire, television, radio, or the internet in interstate or foreign commerce. Wire fraud is similar to regular fraud, only that it’s committed over phone lines and involves electronic communication. Common charges associated with wire fraud include:

  • Identity theft

  • eBay fraud

  • Credit card fraud

  • False advertising

  • Pyramid or Ponzi scheme

  • False advertising

  • Telephone marketing scams

The number of wire fraud cases rises every year, which is why law enforcement has been cracking down. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in innocent people being falsely accused. If you have been charged or are under suspicion for wire fraud, contact a reputable Minnesota wire fraud attorney at Ringstrom Law.

When someone obtains another person’s identifying data, such as a name or Social Security number, they can use that information to open fraudulent accounts, secure a benefit or commit a crime in that person’s name. This is a clear violation of Minn. Stat. §609.527 (2000). As provided by this section, a person who uses, transfers, or possesses another person’s identity with the intent to commit, abet, or aid any illegal activity is guilty of identity theft. Some examples include:

  • using a false pretense to obtain identity

  • using another person’s name on a check and trying to cash it in the disguise that you’re that individual

  • unlawful use of a scanning device or reencoder

  • posing as someone in an online "chatroom"

  • using another person’s credit card to make an online purchase

Thee sentence imposed for identity theft will depend upon the amount of money stolen and the number of victims. The state can and will aggregate the number of victims and/or the amount stolen over a period of 6 months. When this happens, you can be easily charged with a felony on what would otherwise be a misdemeanor violation.

As the famous saying goes, there are only two certainties in life; death and taxes. The Internal Revenue Service takes a strict approach to tax collection at the federal level, while states also have their own tax laws. Typically, states use financial incentives like interest, fines, and liens to enforce payment. The North Star State takes tax evasion very seriously. The Minnesota Department of Revenue takes care of the enforcement of taxes in the state. The DOR will initiate investigations involving suspected tax fraud and evasion and sometimes relies on tips from citizens to get hold of individuals who do not comply with state tax laws.

There’s a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax evasion is the intentional avoidance of paying taxes owed by the government. Tax avoidance, on the other hand, refers to structuring your financial transactions in a manner that will allow you to get the largest tax benefits. Tax avoidance is legal to some extent, but tax evasion is a crime. Being involved in tax fraud means that you’re misinterpreting your financial status to the IRS. Examples of activities that would be considered tax fraud or evasion include:

  • Overestimating deductions or expenses

  • Underreporting income

  • Claiming false deductions

  • Failing to collect employment taxes

  • Claiming personal expenses as business expenses

  • Violating employer withholding requirements

  • Filing false returns with intent to defraud

Tax fraud and tax evasion are very serious crimes punishable by substantial fines and prison sentences.

Minnesota Fraud Penalties

In Minnesota, fraud crimes can be misdemeanors or felonies, with the latter associated with greater penalties. The charges you will face will depend on various factors, such as the specifics of your cases, the statutes that apply, and your criminal history. In some cases, fraud crimes can be charged as theft, meaning that the level of the charges filed against you will depend on the amount of money or the value of the property in question. Courts may impose hefty fines and weight prison sentences, ranging from a few months to several years

A fraud conviction can have a number of other immediate consequences. Whether convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, a conviction for any type of fraud will create a permanent criminal record. This record can get in the way of getting into an institution of higher education or obtaining financial aid. A conviction can negatively impact a person’s current and future employment. An individual may be barred from working at a financial institution or holding a position that involves dealing with a person or business’s finances. A criminal record can also make one ineligible for certain professional licenses or create obstacles in obtaining one. Simply put, it may be difficult to obtain a good job. Beyond work and school, a criminal record for fraud could impact your child custody case and immigration status. And you lose the right to own or possess a firearm if convicted of a felony.

Find a Minnesota Fraud Attorney Near Me

Considering the severe implications that a fraud conviction can have on a person’s life, it’s of the utmost importance to retain legal counsel right away. A Minnesota Fraud Attorney can help you throughout the process. At Ringstrom Law, we know there are two stories to every alleged crime, especially fraud crimes that may rely on the victim’s perception of the events leading to the charges. It’s our goal to make your side heard by the police, prosecutors, and judges.

We’re committed to working zealously on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome in your case, whether that involves the prosecutor dropping or reducing your charge, leniency from a judge, or acquittal by a jury. If the case moves to trial, we stand to ready to prepare the strongest case possible. Some of the defenses we can assert include:

  • There has been a mistake of identity
  • There’s a lack of sufficient evidence
  • You lacked intent to defraud
  • You’re the victim of entrapment
  • These are false allegations

If you or a loved one has been charged with fraud in Minnesota, schedule a free consultation with Ringstrom Law through our online contact form or by calling us at (218) 284-0484

MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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