Prosecutors are aggressive in going after people accused of white collar crimes. In many cases, when you are accused of committing certain financial crimes, you will be charged not at the state level but at the federal level. Federal offenses usually have much more serious penalties and you could end up with a lengthy prison sentence, even for an offense that is relatively minor.
Recent court cases have broadened the definition of certain federal white collar criminal offenses, including bank fraud. If you are accused of any white collar crime in Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville or anywhere in Alabama, you should talk to a white collar criminal lawyer.
When Can You be Charged with Bank Fraud?
18 U.S. Code Section 1344 defines the federal offense of bank fraud. You are supposed to be charged with this offense only if you knowingly participate in a scheme to defraud a financial institution of money or assets.
However, in 2014, Loughrin v. United States came before the Supreme Court. In the Loughrin case, the defendant engaged in what amounted to a very simple fraud. He stole checks, and then tried to either cash the checks at Target or use the checks to obtain merchandise. Target employees stopped most of the attempts to cash checks.
Loughrin never went to the bank. However, he was still charged with bank fraud because his attempts to cash the check, if successful, would result in funds being taken from bank accounts that the checks represented. This in effect, could be seen as an attempt to defraud a financial institution of money or assets.
The bank fraud charges were appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which was asked to clarify the definition of the federal bank fraud statute. Since Section 1344 makes it a crime to use "false or fraudulent pretenses" to obtain money from a financial institution, technically each and every bad check case could be a federal offense. However, most of these cases are handled under state larceny or theft laws, rather than prosecuted as federal crimes.
Conviction for federal bank fraud can result in a prison sentence of as long as 30 years, as well as up to a $1 million fine- so expanding the definition of the bank fraud statute to apply to every bad check case could have momentous consequences.
The Supreme Court held that Loughrin's offense could constitute federal bank fraud because his actions would naturally cause the bank to part with money that was under its control. The Court determined that a federal bank fraud offense didn't actually require intent to defraud a bank, as long as one objective of the defendant's scheme was to obtain funds from a bank. However, the Court did attempt to limit the reach of the federal bank fraud statute only to situations where defendant's lies or false statements would naturally be transmitted to a financial institution.
Despite this limiting attempt, the decision opened up the door for more bad check cases and more white collar criminal acts to be prosecuted under federal bank fraud statutes. Defendants who are charged with federal offenses need to ensure they get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer with experience handling federal cases.
Contact Barclay Law at 866-584-1023 or visit https://www.jmbarclaylaw.com to schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Birmingham. Serving Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Hoover, Pell City, Irondale and surrounding areas.