The terms “economic crimes” and “white collar crimes” apply to a number of offenses that involve obtaining money, property or some other benefit using deception or trickery. They cover offenses ranging from fraud to embezzlement to money laundering to forgery to identity theft.
With the growing popularity of both the internet and transactions using a credit card and debit card, economic crimes have become more prevalent. Law enforcement, both state and federal in Florida, has been focused on targeting offenders, and repercussions for any kind of conviction are harsh.
Fort Lauderdale White Collar Defense Lawyer
Often, economic crime cases are complicated. Building a defense requires attention to detail and creativity. At Meltzer & Bell, our attorneys have experience in dealing with complex matters in Broward County courts. We have practiced throughout the courtrooms in South Florida including the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County, FL.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale white collar defense lawyer today for an experienced partner available to you 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We represent clients throughout Broward County, including in Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Coral Springs, Hollywood, Pompano Beach, Plantation, Davie, Sunrise, Weston and Wilton Manors.
Overview of Economic Crime Charges in Florida
- Federal Financial Offenses Heard in Southern District of Florida
- White Collar Offenses Under Florida Law
- Punishment for Economic Crimes
- White Collar Crime Resources
Federal Financial Offenses Heard in Southern District of Florida
Federal law contains multiple offense relating to fraud. Fraud may become a federal matter if the allegations involve crossing state lines (including over the internet), utilizing a federal or federally regulated agency or system or defrauding a federal agency or program, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or any other program.
Mail fraud and wire fraud are some of the most common federal white collar offenses. Mail fraud, defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1341, means to use the postal service or any other commercial carrier, including FedEx or UPS, in a scheme to defraud or obtain money or property through fraudulent means.
Wire fraud, defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1343, means to use wire, radio, or television communication to defraud. This has been interpreted to include the internet. Therefore, any accusation of fraud involving email or a commercial site like Ebay or Craigslist could be charged as wire fraud.
Other federal charges may include:
- Bank Fraud
- Money Laundering
- Tax Fraud
- Tax Evasion
Federal charges based in Broward County are heard in a U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, including the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. At Meltzer & Bell, we are both licensed and experienced to practice in the Southern District.
White Collar Offenses Under Florida Law
State law in Florida also contains a variety of offenses, which may be investigated by the Florida Attorney General, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit or other state or local agency. Some of these offenses include:
- Credit Card Fraud: It is illegal, under Florida Statutes Annotated § 817.61, for a person to use a credit card or debit card that is forged, stolen, used without the owner’s consent, expired or revoked. If the card was used to obtain more than $100 worth of property or more than twice in six months, it is a third degree felony. Otherwise, it is a first degree misdemeanor. Trafficking in stolen credit cards carries a more serious charge of a second degree felony.
- Identity Theft: Crimes relating to fraudulently using a person’s identity or identifying information to obtain some kind of benefit fall under a few charges under Florida law. False Personation, under Florida Statutes Annotated § 817.02, means the accused represented himself or herself as another in order to obtain property, also called identity theft. Charges depend on the amount obtain and can range from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree felony.
Criminal Use of Personal Information (Florida Statutes Annotated § 817.568) means to use a person’s personal identifying information, including a name, Social Security number, bank account number or driver’s license number, to obtain money, property or some other benefit. It is a third degree felony, but can be a second or first degree felony if there are multiple victims or a large amount of money obtained.
- Mortgage Fraud: Mortgage fraud involved a material misstatement or misrepresentation on an application for a mortgage, including lying about a job, income or assets. Under Florida Statutes Annotated § 817.545, mortgage fraud is a third degree felony unless the mortgage amount was more than $100,000, at which point it becomes a second degree felony.
- Insurance Fraud: Insurance fraud means knowingly submitting false or fraudulent information to an insurer with the intent to injure, defraud or deceive them. It may involve property insurance, liability insurance, health insurance, life insurance or any other type, and the accused may be the insured or anyone else who might benefit, such as a doctor or health care clinic. Under Florida Statutes Annotated § 817.234, it is a third degree felony, but may be a second degree felony under certain circumstances.
- Embezzlement: Charges of embezzlement involve the theft of property entrusted to a person. The trust relationship could be employer-employee, such as a worker who is accused of stealing money, inventory or equipment from an employer. It could also be the treasurer or officer of a nonprofit organization or homeowner association. Embezzlement charges are charged like theft, ranging from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree felony depending on the amount prosecutors can prove the accused stole.
Worthless checks is also considered a white collar offense.
Punishment for Economic Crimes
If you are convicted of a state white collar offense, the penalty will depend upon the charge:
- First Degree Felony: Up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Second Degree Felony: Up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Third Degree Felony: Up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
- First Degree Misdemeanor: Up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
- Second Degree Misdemeanor: Up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500
White Collar Crime Resources
Broward Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit: This division of the BSO handles investigation of numerous white collar crimes, including identity theft and fraud.
FLPD’s Identity Theft Page: This page, maintained by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, has tips for the public on how to avoid identity theft.
Fraud Section, U.S. Department of Justice: The Fraud Section of the DOJ investigates and prosecutes a wide range of federal fraud offenses.
Finding the Best Economic Crimes Defense Attorney in Broward County
If you face any type of charge for a white collar offense, your best move is to promptly call a skilled Fort Lauderdale economic crimes defense lawyer. At Meltzer & Bell, we fight for the rights of clients facing charges of fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, identity theft and more in Broward County courts. Call us today at (954) 765-6585 to schedule a consultation.