Scheme to Defraud in Florida

If accused of Scheme to Defraud in Florida, you need to know the:

Definition of Scheme to Defraud

Under Florida Statute 817.034, a Scheme to Defraud is committed when a person:

  1. Engages in a systematic, ongoing course of conduct;
  2. With the intent to defraud or obtain property from one or more persons;
  3. By false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or willful misrepresentations of a future act.

Organized Fraud versus Communications Fraud

Florida classifies Schemes to Defraud as the crimes of Organized Fraud and Communications Fraud.

Organized Fraud

Organized Fraud is punished more severely and is committed when a person actually obtains property pursuant to a scheme to defraud.

Unlike Communications Fraud, Organized Fraud does not require mail, telephonic, or electronic communications to have occurred as part of the scheme to defraud. [1]

Communications Fraud

Communications Fraud is committed when a person engages in a scheme to defraud and, in furtherance of that scheme, communicates with another by mail, telephonic, or electronic means with the intent to obtain property fraudulently.

Penalties for Scheme to Defraud

The penalties for committing a Scheme to Defraud increase based upon the value of the property and whether the person committed Organized Fraud or Communications Fraud:

Organized Fraud

The penalties for Organized Fraud are based on the aggregate value of property actually obtained during a Scheme to Defraud. The penalties for Organized Fraud are as follows:

Organized Fraud of $50,000 or More

Organized Fraud of $50,000 or More is committed if the property taken has an an aggregate value of $50,000 or more.

Organized Fraud of $50,000 or More is classified as a First Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 6 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Organized Fraud of $50,000 or More, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to thirty years in prison,
  • Up to thirty years of probation, or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

Organized Fraud of $20,000 to $50,000

The crime of Organized Fraud of $20,000 to $50,000 occurs if the property taken pursuant to a Scheme to Defraud has an an aggregate value of more than $20,000, but less than $50,000.

Organized Fraud of $20,000 to $50,000 is classified as a Second Degree Felony and assigned a Level 5 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Organized Fraud of $20,000 to $50,000, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to fifteen (15) years in prison.
  • Up to fifteen years of probation.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

Organized Fraud of less than $20,000

The crime of Organized Fraud of less than $20,000 occurs if the property taken pursuant to a Scheme to Defraud has an an aggregate value of less than $20,000.

Organized Fraud of less than $20,000 is classified as a Third Degree Felony and assigned either a Level 3 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Organized Fraud of less than $20,000, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to Five (5) years in prison.
  • Up to Five (5) years of probation.
  • Up to $5,000 in fines.

Communications Fraud

Unlike Organized Fraud, Communications Fraud is punished per communication, which means a person could be charged with numerous counts of Communications Fraud based upon the same onging Scheme to Defraud.

Communications Fraud is punished as follows:

Communications Fraud of $300 or More

The crime of Communications Fraud of $300 or more occurs if the value of property obtained or sought by a fraudulent communication is valued at $300 or more.

Communications Fraud of $300 or more is classified as a Third Degree Felony and assigned either a Level 3 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Communications Fraud of $300 or more, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to five (5) years in prison.
  • Up to five (5) years of probation.
  • Up to $5,000 in fines.

Communications Fraud of Less than $300

The crime of Communications Fraud of Less than $300 occurs if the value of property obtained or sought by a fraudulent communication is valued at $300 or less.

Communications Fraud of Less than $300 is classified as a First Degree Misdemeanor. If convicted of Communications Fraud of Less than $300, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to one (1) year in Jail.
  • Up to one (1) year of probation.
  • Up to $500 in fines.

Defenses to Scheme to Defraud

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific defenses to the crime of Scheme to Defraud are:

Double Jeopardy

As most Schemes to Defraud and theft offenses are considered degrees of the same core offense, only one conviction can be imposed if a person is charged with multiple theft and Scheme to Defraud offenses. Any additional or subsequently charges offenses are subject to dismissal on double jeopardy grounds. [2]

Intent to Defraud

Scheme to Defraud requires proof of an actual intent to defraud another person. [3]

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of Scheme to Defraud in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. State v. Summerlot, 711 So. 2d 589 (Fla. 3d 1998)
  2. Pizzo v. State, 945 So. 2d 1203 (Fla. 2006)
  3. Ross v. State, 760 So. 2d 214 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000)