According to the Florida Legislature, today’s technological advances have furthered the sophistication and increased the number of theft crimes across the State.
The Florida Communications Act was enacted in response to the increased numbers of fraud and theft crimes resulting from SPAM and other illegal communications against vulnerable groups like the elderly.
The crimes listed under the Act include communications fraud and organized fraud. Communications fraud is carried out using the mail or wires to commit a crime. Organized fraud is harsher charge and often involves a more formulated scheme.
Attorney for Scheme to Defraud Charges in Palm Beach County, FL
If you or someone you know is being investigated for a scheme to defraud charge, either as organized fraud or as communications fraud, speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. In some instances, interstate communications fraud can implicate the federal government, and other serious instances of organized fraud can lead to first-degree felony charges.
If you speak with a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about Florida theft crimes and who can navigate the Federal criminal system, then you can be better prepared to take on the challenges that scheme to defraud charges may bring.
At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., our attorneys are skilled litigators who have fought for the rights of criminal defendants in Florida and federal courts across South Florida for years. We provide dedicated counsel to our clients and pride ourselves on being great resources for our client’s needs.
Our office takes cases throughout Palm Beach County, in West Palm Beach, and in the surrounding areas of Miami-Dade County and Broward County, Florida.
Call (561) 557-8686 for more information about our office and to set up a consultation.
Florida Scheme to Defraud Charges
Florida Statute § 817.034 defines a scheme to defraud as a systematic, ongoing course of conduct that was created to defraud one or more persons out of their property by using false pretenses, false representations or promises, or by willful misrepresentation of a future fact.
Scheme to defraud penalties resemble those promulgated under the general Florida theft statute. Given that, the level of the offense under § 817.034 charged depends on whether the crime was charged as organized fraud or communications fraud and the value of the property stolen.
Organized fraud focuses primarily on the ongoing systematic scheme rather than the method used to defraud a person. To prove that a defendant is guilty of a scheme to defraud by organized fraud, the State must show the following, beyond a reasonable doubt:
- that the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud; and
- that the defendant, as a result of the scheme to defraud, obtained property.
If the fact finder adjudicates the defendant guilty of a scheme to defraud, the penalty will be determined by the value of the property that was stolen, as follows:
- If the aggregate value of the property stolen was $50,000 or more, then the charge may be first-degree felony;
- If the aggregate value of the property stolen was between $20,000 and $50,000, then the charge may be a second-degree felony; and
- If the aggregate value of the property stolen was less than $20,000, then the offender may be charged with a third-degree felony.
Penalties for Scheme to Defraud Charges
Under Florida law, a scheme to defraud charges are determined based on the value of the property stolen. Such penalties can range from first-degree — to – third-degree felonies. The penalties are outlined as follows:
- First-degree felony – punishable by up to thirty (30) years in prison and up to $10,000 fines;
- Second-degree felony – punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in prison and up to $10,000 fines;
- Third-degree felony – punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and up to $5,000 fines.
Florida law defines communication as the act of transmitting signals, writings, sounds, images, data, or intelligence by mail (including e-mail), electromagnetic, or photo-optical system.
To prove that an alleged defendant is guilty of a scheme to defraud by organized fraud, the State must show the following, beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, in furtherance of a scheme, communicated with the victim to obtain property.
Communications fraud is more closely related to petit theft, in that the penalties are generally misdemeanor penalties. Communications fraud differs from petit theft, however, in that when the value of the property stolen is $300 or more, then the charge is a felony.
If the value of the stolen property is $300 or more, then the charge is a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and up to $5,000 fines.
If the value of the stolen property is less than $300, then the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor. First-degree misdemeanor charges are punishable by up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 fines.
Legislative Analysis for Theft – Visit Online Sunshine, the official website of the Florida Legislature for the full bill analysis on the various theft crimes prosecuted in the State of Florida, including a scheme to defraud charges. Also, find out more information on the Florida Communications Act.
Finding an Attorney for Schemes to Defraud in West Palm Beach, FL
If you or someone you know has been arrested in Palm Beach County for a theft offense like a scheme to defraud, then call an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Meltzer & Bell, P.A. we strive to provide our clients with the best possible outcome in their case. We take cases in cities like Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.