San Diego Fraud Defense Attorney
I am fraud lawyer Peter M. Liss. If you have been charged with this serious crime or any other white-collar offenses, I can help you fight the charges. I have been practicing law for over 40 years, tried over 100 jury trials, and successfully defended many people in similar situations. My Vista criminal law office is conveniently located just off the 78 highway across from the North County courthouse and jail. My San Diego criminal defense office is off the I-5 freeway in Carmel Valley. I accept all major credit cards. Please call any time, day or night, to schedule a free initial consultation where we can discuss your case.
What is Fraud?
Fraud is a type of theft that involves the use of false claims or deception. Most of these cases are considered white collar crimes because no one is put in danger of physical harm during the process, but just because these are not violent crimes does not mean they are inconsequential. Anyone facing such accusations should contact a fraud defense attorney as soon as possible.
The Most Common Forms of Fraud
There are many kinds of fraud charges in California, and they all depend on what the suspect is said to have lied about. It is worth noting that the specific charges you will face in San Diego courts will depend on whether you are charged in a state or federal court and what, exactly, you are accused of doing.
Financial Fraud Crimes
The most well-known type of fraud is simply lying to someone else to swindle them out of money. Financial fraud may occur in many ways, including scamming people online or over the telephone, conning someone into giving up their property, or convincing someone they won a sweepstakes in the mail. If you are accused of any type of financial fraud in San Diego, including mail fraud, mortgage fraud, or securities fraud, you must contact an experienced attorney to help protect your rights.
Defrauding the Government
The government is one of the most commonly defrauded organizations, with benefits fraud being one of California’s most common forms of fraud. Welfare fraud occurs when someone attempts to obtain government benefits they would otherwise not be entitled to. The most common types of government aid fraud seen by lawyers in California include:
- Unemployment Insurance
- Social Security
- TANF (Usually called “Welfare”)
- SNAP (aka “Food Stamps”)
- Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program)
- SSI and SSD (Government-issued Disability Insurance programs)
While welfare fraud can be performed by persons operating the programs and distributing benefits, in most cases, it is performed by benefit recipients. Some of the most common ways people commit fraud against welfare programs include: lying on applications, collecting someone else’s benefits, applying for benefits using multiple names, illegally giving benefits to others, or a non-California resident applying for benefits as a Californian.
Other forms of fraud people commit against the government include: falsifying information on an official government form, lying about their state of residency to avoid paying registration fees in California, or illegally using a disabled parking placard. Tax fraud can also result in criminal charges, but this rarely happens except in the most egregious cases. Tax fraud can also result in criminal charges, but this rarely happens except in the most egregious cases. Instead, these situations are generally civil matters that may result in massive fines but no potential criminal penalties.
In most of these cases, recipients will be forced to pay back all benefits they received, which can quickly amount to thousands of dollars. Additionally, those convicted are disqualified from ever receiving future welfare benefits.
Insurance Fraud Cases
There are many types of fraud perpetrated against insurance companies, but some of the methods that most commonly result in criminal charges include:
- Making an injury to get medical care or money from workers comp insurance
- Committing property damage (often arson) to get collect compensation for damages
- Filing false claims
- Obtaining services with someone else’s name
- Falsely inflating losses when filing a legitimate claim
A few real-life examples include: purposefully getting in car accidents for insurance money, falsely claiming property was stolen to collect reimbursement, or lying about the date of an incident that occurred before or after the claimant’s coverage period.
Insurance fraud cases are investigated thoroughly by both the insurance company and the police, so anyone accused of one of these theft crimes should call a criminal defense attorney immediately to help protect themselves.
Many people accused of employee theft don’t even know what “embezzlement” means. While the basic definition of embezzlement involves taking money or property you were entrusted to care for, the law and the prosecution of these cases are incredibly complex, and any small mistake could impact your outcome later on.
Always hire a San Diego criminal defense lawyer immediately if you believe you are being suspected of embezzlement or any type of theft related to taking funds or property from your workplace, even if the police are not yet involved. It is sometimes possible to work out repayment agreements with the victim without having the police involved. If the police have already been called, it may also work to your benefit to repay the victim through the negotiation of counsel. Do not attempt to contact the victim without your San Diego embezzlement defense lawyer present, or what you say could be used against you later.
Healthcare Fraud Charges
Healthcare fraud is another common crime, which can sometimes overlap with insurance fraud. These charges require a healthcare fraud lawyer in Vista with experience defending individuals and organizations. This crime can be performed by doctors, pharmacists, and nurses, even entire hospitals, physician’s offices, and pharmacies, or, less commonly, by patients.
Medical Provider Fraud
Fraud by providers may involve billing insurance companies or government programs such as Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) or Medicare for services that were not actually rendered. In other cases, services or medications provided to patients may be unnecessary and only given to inflate the bill. Pharmacists are occasionally charged with fraud for falsifying records so they sell controlled substances on the streets. The agencies most commonly victimized by these tactics are insurance companies and government programs such as the Veteran’s Administration, Medi-Cal, or Medicaid. Each of these institutions has its own fraud investigation units to uncover suspicious billing and evidence against entities suspected of fraudulent billing. Anyone accused of this crime should always work with a Vista attorney with experience helping clients in need of a strong defense against healthcare fraud charges, whether it involves private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
Medical Patient Fraud
Patients may also perpetrate medical fraud. Common examples include: participating in a “doctor shopping” scam to obtain large quantities of prescription narcotics, using someone else’s identity to obtain medical services for an uninsured or underinsured person, or forging a doctor’s signature on a prescription pad to obtain pain medication. When people try to defend themselves against these charges, they often make statements that can be used as a confession —particularly when they say they were just trying to help someone else who couldn’t afford treatment. To avoid saying something you may regret later, you should never talk to the police without a lawyer experienced in defending clients against charges related to Medicaid, Medicare, or other forms of health care fraud in Vista or the rest of San Diego County.
Before you do something illegal, ask your attorney if you have any questions about the legality of a particular money-making venture that may seem ethically questionable.
What Are the Penalties for Fraud?
The penalties for these crimes vary depending on the specific charges, the details of the crime, what was taken, and whether the accused party is an organization or individual —but most fraud cases involve felony charges. Any individuals convicted of these charges may face prison or jail time. If the crime involved large amounts of money, the potential prison sentence will increase accordingly.
Financial penalties for these crimes are also significant, especially when the perpetrator is a corporation. No matter what the sentence entails, restitution to the victim is mandatory. It is also worth noting that this is a crime of moral turpitude, meaning it will often result in the loss of any professional licenses or accreditation.
In some cases, you may face an individual charge for each time you broke the law. In these cases, it may be advisable to work with your fraud crimes lawyer to see if you can negotiate a plea bargain to minimize the charges you will face.