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What Is Bank Fraud?
Bank fraud takes place when an offender knowingly defrauds or tries to defraud a financial institution, or schemes to get money, credit, an asset or other property that is owned by a financial institution under fraudulent pretenses.
For example, you can be charged with bank fraud if you intentionally or unintentionally defraud a financial institution by overestimating the value of real estate through private discussions with a property appraiser.
Common Types of Bank Fraud
The most common types of bank fraud are forgery, fraudulent loans, bank impersonation and accounting fraud. Forgery typically involves the alteration of a check, either in terms of a signature or the value of the check itself. Depositing stolen checks can also be considered to be bank fraud in some contexts.
Bank impersonation is also a common type of bank fraud, likely because of the rise of internet banking and financial institutions which may or may not even conduct business in brick-and-mortar establishments. If you opened a fake bank and encouraged deposits from unwitting victims, you could be guilty of bank impersonation.
Accounting fraud occurs if you misrepresent your financial accounts or books, using either falsehoods or a fake identity to secure a loan you would otherwise not qualify for or get approved for. Often, bankruptcy is declared shortly thereafter, the funds from the loan long gone into other avenues. The Enron scandal is a well-known example of accounting fraud.
What Is Embezzlement and Is There a Difference?
The differences between bank fraud and embezzlement charges can seem confusing, but generally speaking, embezzlement takes place if an offender lawfully gains access to material, such as a ledger for a small business, but misreports or diverts the assets of the ledger for their own personal gain.
Bank Fraud and Embezzlement are both fraudulent banking activities that are considered violations of law. Embezzlement, in particular, involves an important statute under federal law that relates to the deceitful disclosure of assets for illegal conversion of funds. This frequently comes in the form of employee theft from financial institutions or the theft of money from a bank by one or more of the bank’s employees. Often, an employee will engage in embezzlement without fully understanding the severity and legal repercussions of this crime.
Embezzlement is different from bank fraud from the perspective of the federal court system. Usually, if an offender is stealing or misappropriating funds from a financial institution or a federal organization, they will be charged at the federal level. If you target a private business or entity, you would face charges at the state level.
Bank Fraud Punishment
Bank fraud is not taken lightly in the eyes of the court. Under federal law, the punishment for bank fraud falls under maximum sentencing guidelines. If you are convicted of bank fraud in federal court, you could face up to 30 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $1 million or both.
Bank fraud is a federal crime and is prosecuted as such. Other, similar crimes, such as check fraud, for example, may instead be tried in state courts and carry their own penalties.
In Florida, for example, punishment for check fraud charges might be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount of money that the check falsely represented.
If the amount the fraudulent check represented was less than $150, those convicted of the offense face up to one year in jail and a fine of not more than $1,000. If the fraudulent check was made out for more than $150, those found guilty of the offense face up to five years imprisonment in addition to a fine of up to $5,000.
Bank Fraud Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations, meaning the period of time which prosecutors have to file charges against a defendant, concerning federal bank fraud is 10 years. The statute of limitations for several similar offenses, including wire fraud, mail fraud, embezzlement and falsification of bank records is also 10 years.
Possible Bank Fraud and Embezzlement Defense
The most common legal defenses used against federal bank fraud or embezzlement charges involve questioning whether the defendant knowingly made false statements with the intent to mislead the victim(s) of the crime and that the victim(s) also relied on this false information to incur a financial loss.
If there isn’t substantial evidence proving that you knowingly made false statements, or had the intent to mislead the victim(s), or that the victim(s) then acted upon this information, this could be a successful defense.
If you are facing federal bank fraud charges, it is advised that you seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Does an Embezzlement and Bank Fraud Lawyer Do?
When it comes to issues of bank fraud and embezzlement, you will need an experienced bank fraud attorney. If you are suspected of bank fraud or embezzlement from a financial institution, contact an attorney today for representation to legally represent you in court, protect your rights as a citizen, and guide you in the best course of legal action moving forward.