Scheme to Defraud and Communications Fraud are some of the most commonly charged fraud crimes in the Tampa Bay Area. Scheme to Defraud is also commonly referred to as Organized Fraud.
Florida Statute 817.034 is known as the Florida Communications Fraud Act and defines Scheme to Defraud or Organized Fraud as follows:
A systematic, ongoing course of conduct
With an intent to defraud at least one person or an intent to obtain some kind of property from another
By false or fraudulent pretenses, false promises, fraudulent representations or willful misrepresentation of a future act.
Communication Fraud is slightly different from a Scheme to Defraud charge in that it involves an additional element of communication in order to defraud the other person. “‘Communicate’ means to transmit or transfer or to cause another to transmit or transfer signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligences of any nature in whole or in part by mail, or by wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photooptical system.” Florida Statute 817.034.
The statute specifically states that a defendant can be charged for each act of communication separately. This means that you can easily end up with multiple counts of Communication Fraud charges. Additionally, the court can impose separate judgments and sentences for the organized fraud charge and each act of communication fraud even if all charges involve the same scheme to defraud.
Scheme to Defraud can be a 3rd, 2nd or even 1st degree felony depending on the value of the property involved.
3rd degree felony if the value of the property is under $20,000 - 5 years in prison/probation and a $5,000 fine.
2nd degree felony if the value of the property is $20,000 or more but under $50,000 - 15 years in prison/probation and a $10,000 fine.
1st degree felony if the value of the property is more than $50,000 - 30 years in prison/ probation and a $10,000 fine.
The 1st degree felony is a level 7 offense under Florida law, which means that you will score prison time even if you have no prior criminal record.
Communications Fraud is considered a 1st degree misdemeanor if the value of the property is under $300 and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or on probation and a $1,000 fine. If the value of the property is $300 or more, you will be guilty of a 3rd degree felony and can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison and/or probation and a $5,000 fine.
The value for the property involved in an Organized Fraud case is typically the market value of the property at the time and the place where the offense took place or if the market value cannot be determined, it would be the replacement cost within a reasonable time of the offense.
If for some reason the exact value of the property cannot be determined, then the jury will be asked to decide what the minimum value for the property is. If the jury cannot determine the minimum value, then the value of the property will be considered to be under $20,000.
Scheme to Defraud or Organized Fraud are on the list of crimes that cannot be sealed. This means that even if you receive a withhold of adjudication and are not formally convicted, you are not able to get the charge sealed and any future employer, landlord or anybody else who runs a background check on you, will be able to see the charges. The only way to avoid this permanent blemish on your criminal record is to have the charges either dismissed or at least reduced to a lesser offense, such as petit theft or grand theft.
Given the serious nature of the charges and the consequences a Scheme to Defraud or Organized Fraud charge can have on your life, you will want to hire a knowledgeable and experienced Tampa Bay Fraud attorney. That means you will want to look for a lawyer who has practiced for a long time and has handled many cases similar to yours. Kerstin Wade has practiced law for over a decade and has handled countless fraud cases, including Organized Fraud. Kerstin Wade has an office in downtown Tampa, only blocks from the courthouse and is available for a free consultation. Call 813-401-0130 today to see how Kerstin Wade can help you.