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Fraud Law, Penalties, & Common Defenses in Texas

Fraud refers not to one crime but to a category of crimes that use deception to obtain a benefit or personal gain. While fraud is not the same as theft, they have similarities. Fraud could be described as theft by an act of deceit. Rather than obtaining something of value by stealing an item from someone, fraud involves obtaining something of value by deception. Punishments for fraud crimes vary depending on the type of fraud. An act of fraud may be a civil offense rather than criminal, meaning a victim has been wronged and can file a lawsuit for compensation. Fraudulent activity could also qualify as both civil and criminal.

Fraud cases include crimes such as Forgery, Counterfeiting, Credit Card Abuse, Hindering Secured Creditors, Fraudulent Transfer of a Motor Vehicle, Deceptive Business Practices, Bribery, Illegal Recruitment of an Athlete, Misapplication of Fiduciary Property, Securing Execution of a Document by Deception, Fraudulent Destruction Removal or Concealment of Writing, Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information (Identity Theft), and Exploitation of Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual.

Below are just a few of the more common types of fraudulent crimes a person may be arrested for:

Forgery

There are varying degrees of Forgery depending on the type of writing and the actions alleged to have been committed with the forged instrument. A person commits the offense of forgery if he forges a writing with intent to defraud or harm another. Basically, to "forge" means to pass a writing so that it purports to be the act of another without authorization. A "writing" includes a check on a bank account.

To prove the requisite intent, a jury must be able to reasonably infer that the actor knew the instrument was forged beyond a reasonable doubt. The intent to defraud or harm may be established by circumstantial evidence, although the mere possession, passage, or presentment of a forged instrument does not support an inference of intent to defraud. The offense is a state jail felony if the writing is or purports to be a check, authorization to debit an account at a financial institution, or similar sight order for payment of money.

Credit or Debit Card Abuse

A person commits credit or debit card abuse if he or she uses or intends to use a card that has not been issued to him or her for purchases or to obtain a benefit without the consent of the cardholder.

This alleged offender is usually charged with a state jail felony. However, the crime becomes a third degree felony if the person committed debit or credit card abuse against an elderly person.

Fraudulent Destruction, Removal, or Concealment of Writing

Fraudulent Destruction, Removal or Concealment occurs if, with intent to defraud or harm another, a person destroys, removes, conceals, alters, substitutes, or otherwise impairs the verity, legibility, or availability of a writing, other than a governmental record. Simply stated, this is commonly known as price tag swapping and the punishment categories track the same sentencing scheme as a theft case, although depending on the type of “writing” there are other categories of offenses under this statute.

Class C Misdemeanor

Items worth less than $100 will be charged as a Class-C Misdemeanor. Ramifications do not include jail time but may result in a fine up to $500.

Class B Misdemeanor

If the value of the stolen property is between $100 and $750, a Class B Misdemeanor is punishable with up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000.

Class A Misdemeanor

If the value of the stolen property is between $750 and $2500, a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable with up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,000.

State Jail Felony

If the value of the stolen property is between $2500 and $30,000, a State Jail Felony is punishable by 180 days to two years in a state jail facility and a fine up to $10,000.

Third Degree Felony

If the value of the stolen property is between $30,000 and $150,000, a Third Degree Felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Second Degree Felony

If the value of the stolen property is between $150,000 and $300,000, a Second Degree Felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

First Degree Felony

If the value of the stolen property is $300,000 or more, a First Degree Felony is punishable by 5 years to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information
(Identity Theft)

Texas Law states that “A person commits an offense if, with the intent to harm or defraud another, he obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses an item of identifying information of another person without the other person's consent.”

“Identifying information” is information that in any way identifies a person. This includes a person's name or date of birth.

The two elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict the defendant of identity theft are:

1. The person did not have permission to obtain or possess the other persons' “identifying information”.
2. The person had a clear intent to harm or defraud the victim. "Harm" means causing loss, disadvantage, or injury to the victim or to someone affected by the harm or welfare of the victim.

More recently, credit card skimmers have been receiving attention in the news. This is one of the crimes that could be charged for that type of conduct. The punishment structure for this offense is related to the number of identifying items possessed.

Fraud crimes present a unique challenge to defense lawyers. These offenses involve challenges to identity. In some cases, the defendant himself has been the victim of an identity theft leading detectives to an arrest of the wrong person. A skilled lawyer with experience handling complex, record intensive type cases is a must to get your life and identity back.

These are just a few of the many types of fraudulent criminal activities a person can commit. Fraud crimes usually come with harsh sentencing and are often difficult to defend. That's why finding dependable representation is essential.

Contact Attorney Kenneth Biggs today to schedule a free legal consultation and discuss your allegations of fraud.

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