An organized scheme to defraud typically involves several smaller theft crimes that add up to a much larger amount. The Florida Legislature passed the Florida Communications Fraud Act with the intent “to prevent the use of communications technology in furtherance of schemes to defraud by consolidating former statutes concerning schemes to defraud and organized fraud to permit prosecution of these crimes utilizing the legal precedent available under federal mail and wire fraud statutes.”
The act defines a scheme to defraud as “a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud one or more persons, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.” Criminal charges in these cases are typically based on the aggregate value of the property obtained or the intended to be obtained, with some offenses being classified as felonies that carry steep consequences.Organized Fraud Lawyer in Broward County, FL
If you were arrested or think that you might be under investigation in South Florida for involvement in an alleged organized scheme to defraud, do not make any kind of statement to authorities until you have legal counsel. The Hoffman Firm defends clients accused of white collar crimes in Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach, and surrounding areas of Broward County.
Evan A. Hoffman is a skilled criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale who understands how prosecutors handle these types of cases because of his previous experience as an Assistant State Attorney for the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (954) 524-4474 today to set up a free, confidential consultation.
Fort Lauderdale Organized Fraud Information Center
- How is the value of property determined in these types of cases?
- What are the possible consequences of convictions for organized schemes to defraud?
- Where can I learn more about the Florida Communications Fraud Act?
Organized Fraud Charges in Florida
Under Florida Statute § 817.034, an alleged offender can face criminal charges if he or she engages in a scheme to defraud and obtains property or if he or she engages in a scheme to defraud and, in furtherance of that scheme, communicates with any person with intent to obtain property from that person. In the case of the latter offense, each act of communication can be charged as a separate offense.
The Florida Communications Fraud Act defines property as anything of value, including:
- Real property, including things growing on, affixed to, or found in land;
- Tangible or intangible personal property, including rights, privileges, interests, and claims; and
Value is defined under the same statute as:
- The value of a trade secret that does not have a readily ascertainable market value is any reasonable value representing the damage to the owner, suffered by reason of losing an advantage over those who do not know of or use the trade secret;
- The value of a written instrument that does not have a readily ascertainable market value, in the case of an instrument such as a check, draft, or promissory note, is the amount due or collectible or is, in the case of any other instrument which creates, releases, discharges, or otherwise affects any valuable legal right, privilege, or obligation, the greatest amount of economic loss that the owner of the instrument might reasonably suffer by virtue of the loss of the instrument; or
- The market value of the property at the time and place of the offense, or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.
The values of separate properties obtained in one scheme to defraud—whether from the same person or from several persons—will be aggregated to determine the grade of the offense. If the value of property cannot be ascertained, the judge, jury, or other trier of fact can find the value to be not less than a certain amount. If a minimum value cannot be ascertained, then the value will be an amount less than $300.
Penalties for Organized Fraud in Broward County
When an alleged offender engages in a scheme to defraud and obtains property, the classification of the offense depends on the aggregate value of the property involved. Depending on the amount of the loss involved, the alleged offender could face the following charges:
- Less than $20,000 — Third-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000;
- $20,000 or more, but less than $50,000 — Second-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000; or
- $50,000 or more — First degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
When no property is obtained, then criminal charges will depend on the value of the property that was intended to be obtained. Again, each communication involved in these crimes can be a separate offense:
- Less than $300 — First-degree misdemeanor punishable a maximum sentence of year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000; or
- $300 or more — Third-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.
Florida Resources for Organized Fraud Arrests
Florida Statute § 817.034 — Visit this website to review the full text of the statute cited as the Florida Communications Fraud Act. You can find information about additional definitions and the legislative intent of the act. You can also learn more about the statute of limitations relating to civil actions arising from organized schemes to defraud.
Chapter 20 | Florida Standard Jury Instructions — You can find the standard jury instructions for organized fraud cases under Chapter 20.19 on this website. The instructions discuss what prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt as well as lesser included offenses. The standard jury instructions are rarely used verbatim, but they still provide a helpful overview of what the jury will be asked to consider should your case be taken to trial.
Do you believe that you could be under investigation or were you arrested for an alleged organized scheme to defraud in South Florida? You should not say anything to authorities until you have first contacted The Hoffman Firm.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Evan A. Hoffman represents clients all over Broward County, including Pompano Beach, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Margate, Miramar, and many other nearby communities. Call (954) 524-4474 or fill out an online contact form right now to take advantage of a free consultation that will let our lawyer review your case and discuss your legal options.