It’s illegal under federal law to use false pretenses to obtain money under the custody of a financial institution.
Doing so is the crime of bank fraud.
Bank fraud can include situations like check kiting or “booster checks,” which is when someone writes a bad check to increase the credit limit on a credit card they plan to abuse. It also includes situations like phishing, credit card fraud and accounting fraud.
Bank fraud is a very serious crime. Bank fraud investigations are run by federal agents, who have substantially more resources than traditional police departments. A conviction for bank fraud could carry penalties as high as 30 years in federal prison and fines of up to $1 million.
If you suspect that you or someone you love is under investigation for bank fraud, it’s important to speak with a federal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What is bank fraud?
Bank fraud is defined as “knowingly using a scheme or artifice” to either:
- Defraud a financial institution, or
- Obtain any of the money or other property under custody of the financial institution by false pretenses.
For example, let’s say Mike goes to the bank to apply for a small business loan. Mike’s business nets around $70,000 per year in profits, and because they don’t want to give Mike an amount of money he can’t handle, the bank has specific rules around how much they will lend him.
However, Mike intentionally misrepresents his annual business profits on his loan application as $700,000 in order to receive a larger amount of cash. Mike has likely committed bank fraud.
Penalties for bank fraud
As we mentioned above, bank fraud is treated very seriously by the federal government. Depending on the facts of the case, it carries penalties up to:
- 30 years in federal prison
- $1 million in fines
While you might expect leniency for first-time offenders, federal courts have shown a track record for handing down stiff penalties to people who otherwise don’t have any criminal record.
Defenses against bank fraud charges
While penalties for bank fraud are steep, there are a number of viable defenses against bank fraud allegations.
“This man is a very effective criminal defense attorney. I was charged but I never had to go to court because the case was thrown out thanks to his efforts. I was very worried because I didn’t know anyone who could confirm my location, but he was able to prove that I was innocent.”
Firstly, the prosecution has to prove that you knowingly participated in the fraud or scheme. Going back to the example of Mike’s small business loan, what if the misrepresentation of his annual profit was a simple typo and he didn’t mean to portray his business as bigger than it was? In that case, Mike likely didn’t commit bank fraud.
Or, in the case of Mike’s business loan, what if it was caused by a lack of clarity on the question? Maybe he brought in $700,000 in revenue per year, but only $70,000 was profit. If the defendant can show that they had acted honestly and only found themselves in this situation as a result of confusion or mistake, then they are not guilty of bank fraud.
This is why it’s so important to work with a skilled federal defense attorney. Your attorney is responsible for combing through the facts of your case, reviewing every detail and piece of evidence. Your attorney will help craft a defense that can help you fight the charges against you.
Robert M. Helfend is a federal criminal defense attorney who has practiced since 1984, securing favorable judgments for thousands of his clients in that time. He is rated as a top attorney by Lead Counsel, the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and SuperLawyers. Call today for your free case evaluation — 800-834-6434.