Being charged with fraud or a white collar crime can be scary and infuriating. You may be angry that you are facing false accusations when you do not believe you have done anything wrong. And now with these allegations hanging over your head, you may wonder how they will impact your career and your family’s finances.
Unfortunately, accusations of white collar crime and fraud charges can have devastating effects on your life long before a verdict. You could be more closely scrutinized at work or lose your job altogether. You may face an inquiry by a professional association or lose your professional license, ultimately making it impossible to provide for your family. Additionally, under Pennsylvania’s civil asset forfeiture laws, you could have money and property seized by the authorities.
When faced with fraud or white collar crimes charges, you have the right to aggressively defend yourself. You will be best able to do this with the help of our Pittsburgh fraud and white collar crime attorneys. Call our criminal defense lawyers at (412) 281-2146 to learn how we can protect your rights and defend you in court.
What is White Collar Crime?
When you hear about “white collar crime,” you are hearing about financially-motivated offenses. These are not crimes that involve violence. Instead, these offenses often involve deceptive behavior that enables perpetrators to gain money or power. Common types of white-collar crime include:
- Identity theft
- Theft by deception or embezzlement
- Writing bad checks
- Deceptive business practices
Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies all take white collar crimes as serious as other offenses. You can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony that could lead to months or years in jail or prison and high court costs and fines.
If you are being accused of committing any kind of white collar crime, do not hesitate to call one of our fraud attorneys to learn more about your rights and legal options.
Pennsylvania Fraud and White Collar Crime Offenses
There is not one type of fraud offense. Instead, Pennsylvania law prohibits several different types of fraud, including:
- Identify Theft– You can be charged with identity theft under 18 Pa. Code §4120 if you possessed or used, through whatever means, another person’s identifying information without their consent to further an unlawful purpose. You may face this crime if you are accused of using another person’s driver’s license, Social Security Number, or debit card and PIN. The charge you face for this crime depends on the value of the money or property you unlawfully obtained. A value of less than $2,000 leads to a first-degree misdemeanor, while a value of $2,000 or more results in a third-degree felony. If you are accused of identity theft, call a white collar crime attorney today.
- Access Device Fraud– Access device fraud encompasses the unlawful use of a debit, credit, bank/ATM card, or any other card linked to an account. You can be charged with this crime if you steal another person’s card, use a canceled or revoked card, or use a counterfeit, altered, or incomplete card. Depending on your exact actions and the value of the money or property obtained, you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Food Stamp Fraud– You can be charged with food stamp fraud under 62 Pa. Code §481 if you collected benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to which you were not entitled. This includes under-reporting your income or over-reporting the size of your family to unlawfully increase your benefits. You can also be charged with food stamp fraud if you are a business owner and there is evidence you exchanged SNAP benefits for money, cigarettes, or alcohol. Depending on the amount of benefits you received illegally, you could be charged with an offense between a third-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony. You may also be ordered to pay restitution to the government. If you are being accused of receiving more government benefits than you are entitled to, contact a fraud attorney right away.
- Insurance Fraud– Under 18 Pa. Code §4117, it is illegal to knowingly deceive a government agency, insurer, broker, or a self-insured party to gain something of value, whether that is to have a claim wrongfully approved, a reimbursement wrongfully increased, or unlawfully obtain another item of value. While insurance fraud may be a first-degree misdemeanor, it is typically charged as a third-degree felony.
- Home Improvement Fraud– Based on 73 Pa. Code §517.8, you could be charged with home improvement fraud if you, with the intent to defraud or injure a homeowner, use false or misleading statements to get an owner to enter into a home improvement product or services agreement, get paid in advance but do not complete the work, damage an owner’s property with the intent to convince them to hire you to fix it, or commit other types of misrepresentations for financial gain. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of your unlawful gain and other factors. To avoid a home improvement fraud conviction, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today.
- PPP Loan Fraud – To keep businesses afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, the government issued a series of forgivable loans to ensure employees got paid during the crisis. The government has prosecuted many businesses for falsifying their loan applications to obtain funds. This is a federal offense that could involve several different crimes depending on your case.
Potential Statutory Punishments for White Collar Crime
For most fraud charges, the level of the charge against you depends on the amount of money or the value of the property you allegedly unlawfully obtained. The greater the value of the money and/or property, the higher the charge. However, other factors influence the charge as well. If you have a previous fraud conviction on your record, this could lead to an elevated offense.
Based on the offense you face, the potential punishments include, from the least serious to the most:
- Third-degree misdemeanor– Up to one year in jail, and a fine up to $2,000.
- Second-degree misdemeanor– Up to two years in jail, and a fine up to $5,000.
- First-degree misdemeanor– Up to five years in jail, and a fine up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony– Up to seven years in prison, and a fine up to $15,000.
- Second-degree felony– Up to 10 years in prison, and a fine up to $25,000.
- First-degree felony– Up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.
To learn more about the potential statutory punishments you face if convicted of fraud, call a white collar crime attorney as soon as possible.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
If you are convicted of a fraud or other white collar crime offense, then you can expect more consequences than the statutory punishments. A permanent criminal conviction on your record is available for the public to see, which can have a profound impact on various aspects of your life. Once you complete your term of incarceration and return to your community, you may experience:
- Trouble getting into college or graduate school
- Difficulty obtaining student financial aid
- Ineligibility or difficulty obtaining certain professional licenses
- A hard time getting a job
- Ineligibility for certain government positions
- Trouble getting approved for rental housing
- Immigration issues
- Loss of or a reduction in your child custody or visitation
- Loss of your voting rights while incarcerated
- Loss of your gun ownership rights, if convicted of a felony
Call our fraud lawyers today to discuss your best defense options.
Defending Against Fraud and White Collar Crime Charges
Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC we understand fraud cases can become extremely complex, particularly when they revolve around a business’s finances. However, we are well-versed in the laws regarding fraud and other financial offenses. We have years of experience in handling these types of cases and are not intimidated by their difficulty or nuances.
Our white collar crime attorneys have relationships with financial professionals and industry experts who can help us conduct an investigation into your case and gather evidence on your behalf. With the help of expert witnesses, we will build you the strongest possible defense.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, may use one or more defenses, including:
- Establishing you did not have the requisite intent to commit fraud
- Establishing you lacked knowledge of any deception, untrue fact, or forged document
- Suppressing unlawfully obtained evidence
- Challenging the prosecutions’ lack of sufficient evidence against you
How a Pittsburgh White Collar Crime Attorney Can Help You
When you have been charged with any type of fraud of white collar crime offense, you need the help of a knowledgeable, experienced, and trusted criminal defense attorney. Our legal team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC is ready to dive into your case, analyzing every piece of evidence so that we can build you the strongest defense possible under the law. We will use all of the resources at our disposal to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.