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There are many schemes that individuals use to commit the “white-collar” crime of fraud. If you’re facing criminal fraud charges, you need to defend your actions in a court of law. Even civil charges can bring significant judgments you must pay. Let’s look at the types of fraud and the civil and criminal penalties you may find yourself facing in court.  We’ll also answer the question, “Is Fraud a Felony?”

Common Scams and Frauds

If your crime caught the attention of law enforcement and you face criminal fraud charges, the prosecutor decides how to argue the case against you in criminal court. The criminal court provides severe penalties for fraud. The FBI lists common scam and fraud crimes that catch their attention, including:

  • Advance Fee Schemes
  • Business Email Compromise
  • Business Fraud
  • Charity and Disaster Fraud
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Elder Fraud
  • Election Crimes and Security
  • Fraudulent Cosmetics and “Anti-Aging” Products
  • Funeral and Cemetery Fraud
  • Health Care Fraud
  • Identity Theft
  • Illegal Sports Betting
  • Internet Auction Fraud
  • Internet Fraud
  • Investment Fraud
  • Letter of Credit Fraud
  • Market Manipulation (“Pump and Dump”) Fraud
  • Money Mules
  • Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud
  • Non-Delivery of Merchandise
  • Online Vehicle Sale Fraud
  • Ponzi Schemes
  • Prime Bank Note Fraud
  • Pyramid Schemes
  • Ransomware
  • Redemption / Strawman / Bond Fraud
  • Reverse Mortgage Scams
  • Romance Scams (1)

Any of these schemes can result in facing charges. However, criminal charges are different from civil proceedings. In civil proceedings, you may pay damages to someone you have financially hurt. In criminal proceedings, whether you hurt anyone or not, you can face charges if you intended to defraud someone. A criminal conviction is quite different than paying damages to someone in civil court.

Criminal Fraud vs. Civil Fraud

In North Carolina, criminal and civil laws include fraud statutes. If a government prosecutor brings criminal charges, you can face consequences including jail time, fines, community service, probation, and a criminal record. 

If the legal system chooses not to prosecute you, the victim of your fraud can still file a civil lawsuit against you. They can seek monetary compensation for the damages you caused. 

If you tricked someone online into paying you $4,995 for a non-existent vehicle and then ghosted them, you might think you’ve gotten away with your crime.  However, if the unwitting victim hires a security specialist to track you online, you may find yourself served with papers for a lawsuit. The court may demand you pay the victim $8000 to cover the victim’s time, stress, energy, and attorney and court fees. 

In some cases, you can face criminal and civil charges for fraud. If law enforcement finds out that you scammed many individuals into buying non-existent vehicles and profited $23,550 from victims online, you could be in trouble. The Federal government could get involved and charge you for federal fraud since you crossed state lines. 

Is Fraud a Felony? 

Felony fraud involves the loss or gain of more money than misdemeanor fraud. So if you embezzle funds from your grandmother’s bank account while pretending you’re using the funds for her needs, you’re committing a type of elder fraud. 

If you embezzle $950 from her, you commit a misdemeanor. However, if you defraud her for $1100, you may face criminal felony charges.

Misdemeanor Fraud

In North Carolina, if you commit a Class 1 misdemeanor, you may face possible criminal prosecution and conviction. Consequences may include 1 to 120 days in prison, fines, attorney fees, probation, community service, and a criminal record if you: 

  • Willfully making a false statement of a fact to obtain or deny any benefit or payment causing less than $1000 in damages
  • Assist another to obtain or deny any benefit or payment causing less than $1000 in damages

Felony Fraud

If you commit a Class H felony, you may face possible criminal prosecution and conviction. Consequences may include 4 to 25 months in prison, fines, attorney fees, probation, community service, and a criminal record if you: 

  • Willfully making a false statement of a fact to obtain or deny any benefit or payment causing more than $1000 in damages
  • Assisting another to obtain or deny any benefit or payment causing more than $1000 in damages

Even if the prosecutor decides to dismiss your charges, your grandmother or her estate can sue you in civil court for damages and monetary restitution. 

We Can Help

If you face fraud charges, your best hope for leniency lies in hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to stand up for your rights. At Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, we understand that everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance. Our criminal law team investigates every aspect of your case, looking for your best defense. Whether the prosecutor has insufficient evidence or you did not intend to commit fraud, we find the best way to negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced or dismissed charges. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

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