Being charged with fraud in Washington State is a serious matter. A conviction can result in harsh penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and probation, and interfere with career opportunities for individuals employed in accounting, banking, or finance. These crimes are also prosecuted at the federal level, which can result in more severe penalties. With so much at stake, it is crucial to work with an experienced criminal fraud defense attorney.
Jennifer Horwitz Law has extensive experience defending clients against all types of criminal charges, including fraud and other white-collar crimes. Lead attorney Jennifer Horwitz has in-depth knowledge of the Washington Criminal Code and a demonstrated track record of success in handling fraud cases, including:
- Credit card
- Healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid)
- Identity theft
- Real estate
When you consult with Jennifer, she will take the time to explain your rights and explore all your legal options. Contact her Seattle office today to get started.
Defending Clients Against Fraud Crimes in Washington State
Generally, fraud involves any intentional or deliberate act to deprive another of property or money by deception, misrepresentation, or other unfair means. These crimes in Washington include:
Forgery involves (1) falsely completing or altering a written instrument or (2) possessing, offering, or disposing of a written instrument that the defendant knows is forged. A written instrument includes any document with a stamp, seal, trademark, or other symbols of identification, such as a driver’s license, check, or passport. Forgery is considered a Class C felony punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $10,000 fine for a first offense and up to 18 months imprisonment for subsequent offenses.
Obtaining a Signature by Duress
This offense occurs when someone is forced to sign or execute a written instrument through duress or deception with the intent to defraud. Obtaining a signature by duress is a class C felony punishable by imprisonment of 60 days and a $10,000 fine.
Criminal Impersonation – Identity Theft
There are two degrees of criminal impersonation, also referred to as identity theft, under Washington law:
- Criminal impersonation in the first degree occurs when a person (1) assumes a false identity and acts in his or her assumed character or (2) pretends to be a representative of some person or organization or a public servant and acts in his or her pretended capacity with the intent to defraud or for any other unlawful purpose. First-degree identity theft is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Criminal impersonation in the second degree occurs when a person (1) pretends to be a law enforcement officer and acts in that capacity or (2) falsely assumes the identity of a veteran or active duty military with the intent to defraud for the purposes of personal gain (e.g. pretending to be a veteran to obtain veterans benefits). Second-degree identity theft is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
False certification occurs when (1) a person who is authorized as an officer to take proof or acknowledgment of an instrument to be recorded “knowingly certifies falsely that the execution of said instrument was acknowledged” or (2) a notary “knowingly certifies falsely that a tangible copy of an electronic record is an accurate copy of the electronic record.” False certification is also a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Other types of offenses under Washington law include:
- False academic credentials
- Impersonating a census taker
- Ballot forgery
- Cigarette tax stamp forgery
- False representations
- Land registration forgery
- Obtaining employment by forged recommendation
- Offering forged instruments for filing
Regardless of the charges facing you, Jennifer Horwitz will work to protect your rights, your freedom, and your future.
Federal Fraud Laws
In addition to state-level offenses, several types of fraud are prosecuted at the federal level. Two of the most common federal fraud crimes are mail fraud and wire fraud:
It is illegal to use U.S. mail to carry out fraudulent activity. Mail fraud occurs when a person (1) unlawfully obtains money or property or attempts or engages in a conspiracy to obtain money or property under false or fraudulent pretenses and (2) uses the U.S. Postal Service or a private commercial carrier (e.g Federal Express) to commit the crime.
Mail fraud is punishable by fines and up to 20 years in federal prison. If the scheme involves a financial institution, benefits related to a federally declared disaster or emergency, or other special circumstances, the offense is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Wire fraud occurs when (1) a person unlawfully obtains money or property or attempts or engages in a conspiracy to obtain money or property under false pretenses and (2) uses any form of electronic communication (e.g. telephone, wire, radio, internet, email) to carry out the crime.
An individual who is convicted of wire fraud faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, however, an organization may be fined up to $500,000. The penalties are also elevated under the special circumstances applicable to mail fraud.
Mail fraud and wire fraud are typically charged in connection with other fraud crimes, such as bank fraud and securities fraud, which means the punishment can be quite severe.
Potential Defenses Against Fraud Charges
The fact that you have been charged with fraud does not mean that you will be convicted. The prosecution must be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Jennifer Horwitz will work to assert one or more of the following defenses, including:
- Lack of Intent – If you provided information that you didn’t know was false, you may not have acted with the requisite criminal intent to be convicted
- Insufficient evidence – If the state’s evidence is not convincing, then the charges may be dismissed.
- Non-fraudulent statement – For a misleading statement to be considered fraudulent, it must be a misstatement about a fact. A statement that is merely an opinion or a promise to take action in the future may not constitute fraud.
- Entrapment – Sting operations are legal; however, entrapment is not. It may be possible to show that you would not have engaged in fraud if law enforcement authorities had not coerced you to do so.
Above all Jennifer is committed to winning an acquittal, however, she may recommend plea bargaining to a lesser charge and sentence if the state’s evidence is insurmountable.
Contact Our Experienced Seattle Fraud Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with fraud, it is crucial to have the informed representation Jennifer Horwitz provides. She has the skills and experience to defend you in state and federal court and will work to protect your rights and your freedom. Contact Jennifer today for a consultation.