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Fraud Fraud - Greenwood Law

Exploring White Collar Crimes — What Are the Legal Consequences for Fraud?


White collar crimes take many forms. North Carolina has laws against credit card fraud, insurance fraud, and defrauding an “eating house,” popularly called dine-and-dash. These offenses all have a common thread — the perpetrator intentionally obtained something of value through false pretenses.

A fraud conviction can bring many consequences. The remedies for fraud can affect the defendant’s finances, property, and freedom.

What Is Fraud?

North Carolina has a broad criminal statute governing all types of fraud. This charge, called “obtaining property by false pretenses,” requires proof of the following elements:

  • Knowingly and designedly using any kind of false pretense
  • Obtaining or attempting to obtain something of value
  • Intending to cheat or defraud

This law applies to all types of property, including:

  • Money
  • Goods
  • Services
  • Property
  • Legal right to take possession of property

This law could apply to someone who sells fake gold coins, files a false insurance claim, or turns in someone else’s valet ticket to claim their car. But for a conviction, prosecutors must show that they knew the pretense was false and intended to obtain property that did not belong to them.

Thus, fraud might not apply if the coin seller thought they were real, the insurance claimant made an honest mistake describing the property, and the person erroneously picked up someone else’s valet ticket off the floor, believing they dropped their own ticket.

What Happens After a Fraud Conviction?

The sentence for a fraud conviction depends on the value of the property obtained. A fraud involving property worth $100,000 or more is punished as a class C felony. A fraud involving property worth less than $100,000 is a class H felony.

The term of imprisonment for each class of felony depends on a matrix of factors, including prior convictions and aggravating circumstances. Some aggravating circumstances that might affect a fraud sentence include:

  • Participating in a fraud conspiracy
  • Targeting senior citizens
  • Employing children to assist in the fraud
  • Abusing a position of trust, like the victim’s lawyer or clergy member, to defraud
  • Directing the fraud toward a minority population
  • Defrauding multiple victims
  • Perpetrating a particularly high-value fraud

The basic sentence for a class C felony is 58 to 73 months. Mitigating factors can bring this down to 44 to 58 months. Aggravating factors could push this to 146 to 182 months. The basic sentence for a class H felony is five to six months. A judge could reduce this to four to five months or increase it to as high as 20 to 25 months.

In addition to the jail sentence, judges can impose a fine. The fine amount is discretionary, meaning the judge can set any fair and appropriate fine.

Judges can order restitution to victims. In a fraud case, prosecutors will try to make victims whole, and judges are often sympathetic to these efforts. The defendant will need to use any liquid assets to repay victims for what they lost in the fraud.

Prosecutors can apply to the court to freeze or seize the defendant’s assets. This procedure could happen even before the conviction. After the conviction, the court can use the proceeds from the sale of the assets to repay the victims.

Learn About the Consequences of Fraud

A fraud conviction can end with you in prison for a few months or over a decade. It can also cost you everything you own. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to learn how a fraud conviction could affect you.

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