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Fraud / Identity Theft

Fraud is a broad umbrella term used to describe crimes of deception or breach of confidence usually committed for some financial or personal gain. In Florida, fraud encompasses nearly 100 crimes including identity theft, bad checks, making false reports to obtain credit or property, theft by fraud and making false reports to law enforcement. Fraud crimes are often known by many names and have overlapping elements. Some common crimes of fraudulent nature seen in Tampa Bay, Florida are detailed below.

Theft by fraud (Larceny)

Theft by fraud may happen one of two ways. First: by obtaining property by willful misrepresentation or false promise; and second, when an offender falsely impersonates or represents another person in order to defraud. Both offenses are punishable as larceny offenses classed based on the amount of money or value of property involved.

Making false statements to obtain property or credit (Mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud)

This category of fraud applies to anyone who makes a false statement, in writing, relating to his or her financial condition, assets or liabilities, or that of any firm or corporation with a fraudulent intent of obtaining credit, goods, money or other property. Making false statements to obtain property or credit is a 1st degree misdemeanor offense that carries a potential sentence of up to 1 year in prison and fines up to $1,000.

Obtaining property by false personation (Larceny, credit card fraud, driver’s license fraud)

Anyone who falsely personates or presents his or herself as another person to obtain property, commits the crime of larceny. Larceny is punishable as either a felony or misdemeanor offense, depending on the value or type of the property taken.

Unlawful possession and use of the personal identification information of another person. (Identity Theft)

It is unlawful for a person to intentionally or knowingly possess, without authorization, the personal identification information of another person in any form.

Anyone who fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, someone else’s personal identifying information and who does not have consent of the owner commits the crime of fraudulent use of personal identification information. Personal information may be telephone number, name, date of birth, driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, social security number etc.

Identity theft fraud is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. If you use the personal information for gain and the value gained is more than $5,000 the charge can be elevated to a 2nd degree felony which carries a potential sentence of 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Bad or Worthless checks

It is a criminal offense for any person, firm, or corporation to obtain any services, goods, or other things of value by means of a check, draft, or other written order knowing at the time of the issuance of such check that there are insufficient funds on deposit to cover the transaction.

A person may only be convicted of issuing a worthless check if he or she knew (when the check was written) that there were insufficient funds in the bank. However, intent to defraud or knowledge of insufficient funds is presumed if there were insufficient funds at the time the check was made, delivered, or drawn. This presumption must be rebutted by the defense.

Issuing worthless checks is a 1st degree misdemeanor charge that carries a potential sentence of up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $1,000. Stopping Payment with Intent to Defraud occurs if you stop payment on a check when you received something of value in exchange for it. Typically, stop payment is a 2nd degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and fines up to $500.

However, if there are multiple checks that add up to more than $150 or the value of a single worthless check or stop payment is over $150 the defendant may face 3rd degree felony charges and a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Making False statements and reports to Law Enforcement

It is a criminal offense for a person to knowingly give to a law enforcement or police officer false information regarding the commission of a crime. This occurs if crime is reported that did not occur, or if the crime occurred but the reporter knowingly gave false information regarding the incident. The person must have known the information reported was false and must know that the person to whom the information is given is a law enforcement officer.

In Florida, giving false information to law enforcement may carry misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on the number of prior convictions and the subject matter of the information.

  • A first offense is a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000 fine.
  • A second offense for false information is classified as a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.

False information concerning a capital felony is a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.