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Scheme to Defraud Attorneys in Orlando, FL

Scheme to Defraud in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide by an Experienced Attorney

What are the Elements of Scheme to Defraud in Florida?

Under Sec. 817.034, Florida Statutes, the elements of Scheme to Defraud in Florida are as follows:

  • A person engaged in a systematic, ongoing course of conduct;
  • The person had the intent to defraud another person, or to obtain property from another person by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or willful misrepresentations of a future act;
  • Either the person obtained property through the scheme, or the person communicated with another person with the intent to obtain property from the other person through the scheme.

If the charge is based on obtaining property through a scheme to defraud, then it is known as Organized Fraud. If the charge is based on a communication with the intent to defraud another, then the charge is known as Communications Fraud. It is important to note that each act of communication is considered a separate crime.

What are the Penalties for Scheme to Defraud in Florida?

The penalties for Scheme to Defraud depend on whether the charge is based on Organized Fraud or Communications Fraud, as well as the value of the property that was the subject of the fraud.

Type of Fraud Value of Property Penalty
Communications Fraud Less Than $300 First-degree misdemeanor, up to 1 year of jail or probation, and a $1,000 fine
Communications Fraud $300 or More* Third-degree felony, up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine
Organized Fraud Less Than $20,000** Third-degree felony, up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine
Organized Fraud $20,000 or More but Less Than $50,000*** Second-degree felony, up to 15 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine
Organized Fraud $50,000 or More^ First-degree felony, up to 30 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine

*The charge carries a severity level of 1 (or 4 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances (such as prior criminal convictions), there is no minimum mandatory sentence. This means that even though the judge can sentence you up to the maximum prison time, the judge is not required to order any amount of prison time. Remember, however, that each communication that is made to defraud another as part of a scheme to defraud is a separate offense, so you can have multiple charges stacked against you based on the same scheme.

**The charge carries a severity level of 3 (or 16 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances, this means that there is no minimum mandatory sentence.

***The charge carries a severity level of 5 (or 28 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances, this means that there is no minimum mandatory sentence.

^The charge carries a severity level of 7 (or 56 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances, this translates to a minimum permissible sentence of 21 months in prison. The judge cannot impose a lesser sentence unless special circumstances exist for what is called a downward departure from the minimum sentence.

How Can I Fight a Charge of Scheme to Defraud in Florida?

There are several defenses available when facing a charge of Scheme to Defraud in Florida. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Lack of Intent: Since part of the elements of Scheme to Defraud is that you had the intent to defraud or obtain property by fraudulent pretenses, you cannot be found guilty of that crime if the State fails to prove the requisite intent. For example, a defendant could be convicted of grand theft, but not for Scheme to Defraud, based on a string of shoplifting incidents, where the defendant didn’t make any false representations in stealing the property.
  • Abandonment: Under Florida law, even if you take steps to attempt to commit a crime, you cannot be found guilty if you abandoned the crime before it is completed. It must be clear that you completely abandoned any criminal intent and that the abandonment was voluntary. For example, abandonment is not a defense if bad weather prevented you from committing a crime, or if police stopped you before you could complete the crime.
  • Proving Value of Fraud: When a charge is based on the value of a fraud, part of the State’s burden is proving that value beyond a reasonable doubt. This is important because the value obtained through Communications Fraud determines if the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor, while the value obtained through Organized Fraud determines what degree of felony the charge will be. For example, if you are charged with Communications Fraud of $300 or more but the State fails to prove that the fraud was worth at least $300, then you can only be found guilty of Communications Fraud of Less than $300, which is punished less severely.
  • Motion to Suppress: This is a legal motion filed by the defense to exclude certain evidence from the trial. The defense can argue that the evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, if the police conducted an illegal search and seizure, any evidence obtained during that search could potentially be suppressed.
  • Alibi Defense: An alibi defense is used when the defendant claims that they were somewhere else at the time the alleged crime took place. If the defense can provide credible evidence supporting the alibi, it can be a powerful defense strategy.

These are just a few of the myriad other strategies we can use to challenge the State’s case or prove your innocence.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between Scheme to Defraud and other types of fraud?

Scheme to Defraud is a specific type of fraud that involves a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud another person or to obtain property from another person by false or fraudulent pretenses. Other types of fraud may not involve such a systematic course of conduct or may involve different methods of deception.

2. Can I be charged with Scheme to Defraud if I didn’t actually obtain any property?

Yes, you can still be charged with Scheme to Defraud even if you did not actually obtain any property. If you communicated with another person with the intent to obtain property from them through a scheme to defraud, you can be charged with Communications Fraud.

3. What happens if I’m convicted of Scheme to Defraud?

If you’re convicted of Scheme to Defraud, the penalties can vary depending on the value of the property involved and whether the charge is based on Organized Fraud or Communications Fraud. Penalties can range from a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 1 year of jail or probation and a $1,000 fine, to a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years of prison or probation and a $10,000 fine.

4. What should I do if I’m charged with Scheme to Defraud?

If you’re charged with Scheme to Defraud, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can review your case, advise you on the best defense strategy, and represent you in court.

5. How can Leppard Law help me if I’m charged with Scheme to Defraud?

At Leppard Law, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can provide vigorous defense for clients charged with Scheme to Defraud. We understand the intricacies of Florida’s fraud laws and can advise you on the best defense strategy for your case. We represent clients across Orlando, Orange County, Seminole County, Brevard County, Lake County, Volusia County, and Osceola County.

Contact the Leppard Law Defense Attorneys to Take Charge of Your Case

The most frequently prosecuted fraud-related crimes within Florida are organized crimes, also referred to as a scheme to fraud. This type of crime allows the prosecutor to consolidate several small frauds into one large crime. The crime could be categorized as a misdemeanor, or a felony matter based on the fact that property was obtained by fraud or, if not, it is worth the property acquired.

If you’re accused of committing an organized scheme to defraud crime, speak to the knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers in Leppard Law. Our lawyers represent clients who are charged with financial and theft crimes across Orlando, Orange County, Seminole County, Brevard County, Lake County, Volusia County, and Osceola County. Contact our office now by dialing (407) 476-4111 to discuss your case.

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