Honest services fraud is a type of white collar crime that typically involves a company or individual offering something of value to a public official in exchange for special or preferential treatment.
The term “honest services” refers to the duties owed by a public official or private individual to act in good faith, with loyalty and fidelity, for the benefit of those he or she represents.
Honest services fraud is an extension of the federal mail and wire fraud statutes. As such, it is a federal crime, and it carries steep penalties. If you or someone you love has been accused of honest services fraud, a federal criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges against you and advise you on building your defense.
What is Honest Services Fraud?
Honest services fraud is defined in US Code Title 18 Section 1346, the same statute used to define federal mail fraud and wire fraud. It is “a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”
In order to convict someone of honest services fraud, the government has to prove four facts of the case were true. These are known as the “elements of the crime.”
The first three elements are the same as those for wire fraud or mail fraud:
- There was a scheme to defraud.
- The scheme was reasonably foreseeable to affect interstate commerce.
- The accused used the mail or wires (or both) in furtherance of the scheme.
The fourth element is what makes honest services fraud unique: In order for someone to be guilty of honest services fraud, he or she must have deprived another person of “honest services.”
The concept of honest services has not specifically been defined under federal law, but it has typically ranged from money to property to “intangible rights” given to the public.
What are Intangible Rights?
Intangible rights are those benefits that cannot be measured in terms of money or property. They are the duties that we owe to one another, such as trust, honesty, and loyalty.
The idea is that when public officials or private individuals offer something of value in exchange for special treatment, they are violating the intangible rights of those they represent.
Penalties for an Honest Services Fraud Conviction
Honest services fraud is a federal crime, and it carries stiff penalties. If you are convicted of honest services fraud, you could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Experienced Federal Criminal Defense
If you have been accused of honest services fraud, it is important to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Robert M. Helfend has more than 30 years of experience defending clients accused of white collar crimes in federal court. He will fight for your rights and work diligently to get the best possible outcome in your case. Contact him today for a free consultation – 800-834-6434.