Facing federal bank fraud allegations can be terrifying and overwhelming. It is crucial to communicate with a criminal attorney early and avoid communication with federal agents before having an attorney. Federal criminal defense attorneys at the Rossen Law Firm specialize in federal crimes such as bank fraud in South Florida. Contact our attorneys to book a strategy session and determine the best way to approach your case.
UNDERSTANDING BANK FRAUD
Under 18 U.S. Code § 1344, it is illegal to intentionally orchestrate or participate in a scheme intending to defraud a financial institution or accounts within that institution. Obtaining an institution’s money, securities, or property using pretenses would additionally result in a conviction.
Typical forms of bank fraud include:
- Embezzlement and financial theft
- False loan applications
- Accounting fraud
- Bill discounting fraud
- Check kiting
- Identity theft or impersonation
- Money laundering
Numerous methods can be employed to commit bank fraud. Offenders often create false accounts, identities, and bank statements. Individuals may also use stolen credit cards or ATM cards to access unauthorized funds within the institution.
18 U.S. Code § 1014 provides a general statute prohibiting making false statements or reports to a financial institution and intentionally overvaluing properties, land, or securities.
HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT PROVE BANK FRAUD?
To obtain a conviction, federal prosecutors must prove each element of a bank fraud offense beyond any and all reasonable doubt. At the Rossen Law Firm, our experienced federal defense attorneys consistently challenge if the government can prove all the necessary elements.
As a subset of other fraud offenses, such as wire fraud, bank fraud elements are similar. However, a bank fraud offense involves a financial institution in a fraudulent scheme. The Government proves each element of bank fraud by doing as follows:
Bank fraud elements and charges are specified in 18 U.S. Code § 1344 and include:
- Intent to defraud: The prosecution must prove the defendant participated in or created a scheme to defraud under pretenses, identities, or promises. Charges still apply if the offender attempted to complete the fraudulent scheme but was unsuccessful. It is not enough to assert that the defendant’s actions resulted in defrauding someone without intent. Proving intent can be challenging, as the prosecution must show what the defendant thought when the crime was enacted.
However, the government can use the defendant’s actions and statements, along with their actions’ effects, to prove an inferred intent to defraud. The prosecution may use alleged victims’ testimonies, or “impression testimonies,” to show how intentional actions may have harmed the defendant. The government can also argue that fraudulent intent is evident when a statement with reckless indifference towards its truth or falsehood is made.
- Scheme to defraud involving a financial institution: The defendant must have attempted to or successfully obtained any money, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by or controlled by a financial institution. The institutions protected by the statute are those chartered under the laws of the United States or insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (now defunct), or the National Credit Union Administration. Most banks are federally protected and subject to protections under the Bank Fraud statute.
- Use of Interstate Communication: Typically, bank fraud schemes involve wires, ATM transactions, or other electronic communications. These methods of communication must additionally travel across state lines or national borders. Phone records, email server logs, and other technological records can all provide evidence that electronic communication was used to commit bank fraud. Evidence is still valid if the defendant did not participate in the communication but caused a given transmission, where the communication resulted from their actions.
It is crucial to remember that the prosecution must prove each element of the crime was present beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant’s actions could be interpreted as lawful or credible, or there is uncertainty behind evidence confirming any of the elements, a bank fraud conviction may not be warranted.
The skilled federal criminal defense attorneys at the Rossen Law Firm are prepared to aggressively defend our clients against the government’s efforts to establish all the elements of a bank fraud charge. With our expertise and dedication, we strive to challenge the prosecution’s case with the utmost determination.
PENALTIES FOR BANK FRAUD
Penalties for committing bank fraud can vary depending on specific cases but are severe in any case and have a grave effect on our clients and their families. Bank fraud penalties include:
- Up to 30 years in federal prison
- Fines of up to $1,000,000
- Restitution may be ordered to reimburse any victims for their losses.
- Forfeiture or seizure of any property or proceeds obtained due to the fraud.
If you face a bank fraud prosecution, seek the guidance of experienced attorneys at the Rossen Law Firm. They can provide valuable insights into how the Federal Sentencing Guidelines may be relevant to your bank fraud case.
The United States Sentencing Guidelines determine the penalties for your case by taking factors such as the amount of loss involved, the number of victims, the defendant’s level of involvement or leadership, the defendant’s acknowledgment of responsibility, their criminal record, and additional relevant information to consider.
Produced by the United States Sentencing Commission, the guidelines create consistency in sentencing throughout all federal courts. They use a uniform set of rules for all federal judges to follow when sentencing an individual convicted of a federal crime.
The guidelines use a points system, also known as “levels,” to determine the severity of a crime. Every crime is assigned a base offense level; for example, fraud-related charges like bank fraud have a base offense level of 7. Specific factors relating to the crime or the defendant can either increase or decrease this level. These factors include:
- Loss Amount: The guidelines provide a table that assigns level increases corresponding to a given amount of loss. The greater the financial loss involved in the crime, the higher the offense level. A $6500 or less loss does not alter the base offense level of 7.
- Number of Victims: In situations where the scheme to defraud impacts many victims, the offense level may be increased. More than 10 victims involved warrants an offense level increase of 2, and if at least 5 victims endured significant financial hardship, the offense level rises by 4.
- Role in the Offense: Offense levels may decrease if the defendant played a small role in the fraudulent scheme. Conversely, a scheming leader or orchestrator may receive an increased offense level.
- Size and safety of the Financial Institution: Offense levels may be increased if the fraudulent scheme jeopardizes the security of a financial institution. If a victim is an organization with at least 1000 employees or a publicly traded company, the offense level increases by 4.
Judges use the offense level after adjustments and the defendant’s criminal history to determine the sentence they should receive. The range indicates the minimum and maximum amount of months that a judge should take into account when determining a prison sentence.
It is essential to understand that the sentencing guidelines are merely a suggestion and not a mandatory range for the judge to be restricted to. Judges must consider the guidelines; however, they can impose a sentence that falls outside the guideline’s range if the case’s particular circumstances deem it justified.
White-collar offenders in the business or financial fields are at risk of having their business licenses and professional certifications revoked. This can harm our clients’ careers, such as banking, investing, or financial advising, and their abilities to find future work in the industry.
In bank fraud cases, the skilled and experienced federal defense attorneys at the Rossen Law Firm consistently present compelling arguments to judges that ultimately reduce or eliminate offense level increases, sometimes advocating for a decreased offense level or a sentence outside the guideline range. These strategic efforts can substantially impact the final sentence our clients may receive.
DEFENDING BANK FRAUD ACCUSATIONS
An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can cater to the circumstances of your specific case by developing a unique defense strategy. Defenses often challenge the intent to defraud and the presence of a scheme to defraud. Numerous defenses against bank fraud are similar to those used in wire fraud and mail fraud cases.
When facing bank fraud charges, defense attorneys use various strategies to challenge the prosecution’s case and cause doubt among the jury. Common defenses that do so include:
- Lack of Intent to Defraud: Arguing that the defendant had no intention to defraud is the most common defense strategy in all fraud cases. Regarding bank fraud charges, the defense can demonstrate that false statements were conducted without malicious intent. Without an intent to defraud a financial institution, it will be difficult for prosecutors to make a strong case against the defendant.
- Good Faith: Similar to the lack of intent defense strategy, the defendant may not have known about the fraudulent scheme and performed actions thinking they were legitimate. The defense team can, therefore, establish that the defendant did not knowingly orchestrate or participate in a fraudulent scheme.
- Insufficient Evidence: Defense attorneys may also question the prosecution’s evidence, particularly its strength and credibility. The prosecution must establish the guilt of the accused for each element of bank fraud, and it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If evidence is immaterial, or irrelevant, then it could weaken the prosecution’s case. The defense can argue the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Mistake: An individual can reasonably make a mistake in the information they provide to a financial institution, such as the information they include in a request for a federally funded loan. Making a mistake or a misstatement is often misconstrued as a criminal intent to deceive a financial institution, and an experienced criminal defense attorney is needed to present the crucial differences.
Maintaining a solid defense against bank fraud charges requires careful examination of the elements of the crime and skillfully challenging the prosecution’s case. Employing the appropriate defense strategy can help weaken the prosecutor’s argument and protect the defendant’s rights.
CHOOSE THE ROSSEN LAW FIRM TO DEFEND YOUR BANK FRAUD CASE
Bank fraud convictions bring incredibly severe penalties. For anyone facing bank fraud charges, it is vital to understand the crime’s elements, penalties, and, most importantly, defenses. Working with a legal defense attorney who handles each complex bank fraud case is crucial. The Rossen Law Firm can help you understand the process of defending your unique case and ensure the best possible outcome for your future. If you have been accused of bank fraud, do not hesitate to contact us and schedule a free strategy session to discuss how to approach your Bank Fraud case with one of our federal criminal defense attorneys today.