Bank fraud charges are serious white-collar crimes that can carry heavy penalties if convicted. Bank fraud occurs when an individual is accused of deceiving a bank, financial institution, or a bank’s depositors by providing false information in order to steal money, funds, credit, assets, securities, or other property owned by, in the custody of, or under the control of a financial institution by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises. Bank fraud is punishable by lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.
In bank fraud cases, the term financial institution can refer to credit unions, mortgage lenders, Federal Reserve banks, banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), or any other financial institution that accepts deposits of money or other financial assets. An individual who provides false information about his or her identity or financial situation on credit applications to any of these institutions or who improperly uses financial transactional devices, like checks, credit, or debit cards, can be charged with a crime.
Criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law can help when your reputation, business, and finances are on the line. If you’ve been charged with bank fraud, contact the team at Berry Law. Let their experience with white-collar criminal defense work for you.
How Can an Attorney Defend Against Bank Fraud Charges?
A major burden of proof for prosecutors in bank fraud cases surrounds the intention of the defendant. Prosecutors must be able to prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally deceived the bank or financial institution in question. In other words, they must show that the defendant committed the fraudulent actions of which they are accused knowing they were committing fraud.
One defense against bank fraud is that the defendant’s actions were not deliberate and that they were not done in an attempt to defraud anyone by receiving assets, money, securities, credits or property from a financial institution through the use of pretense or false information.
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What Constitutes Bank Fraud in Nebraska?
Bank fraud charges fall under a very broad umbrella of offenses, including the following:
Check and Credit Card Fraud
Fraudulent use of checks and credit cards are some of the most common types of bank fraud today. With the rise in online shopping, there has also been an uptick in credit and debit card fraud. Forgery, theft, and check kiting are examples of financial transactional device fraud.
Forgery occurs when an individual alters information on the face of a check. This could include changing personally-identifying information, signing another person’s signature to deposit or cash a check that doesn’t belong to them, or changing the amount for which the check is made out. For example, adding zeros to the amount to make the check appear to be made out for a larger sum.
Criminal impersonation is another type of credit card bank fraud that involves obtaining or recording personal identification information and accessing or attempting to access another person’s financial resources to obtain credit, money, goods, services, or anything else of value. Providing false, misleading, or omitted information such as a name, occupation, financial circumstances, assets, and liabilities in order to fraudulently obtain a credit or debit card is a type of bank fraud.
In jobs involving persons with access to checks and credit cards, including the post office, corporate payroll companies, and tax authority officials, bank fraud is prevalent as well. It occurs when checks are stolen and deposited into fraudulently created bank accounts, or when any type of identity theft is committed for financial gain. Other times, bank fraud may look like stealing account data from credit cards and using it to go on a spending spree.
Check kiting, or writing bad checks, is when an individual makes a payment using a check that they know their account doesn’t have the funds to cover. Booster checks are another form of bad check writing, in which a bad check is deposited into an account in order to boost the account balance. Another check is then written to pay a typically maxed-out credit card bill. While the credit card has available funds, the individual continues to make charges.
The use of a credit card or debit card to obtain money, credit, property or services, or to make a payment knowing that the card has expired, been revoked, canceled, forged, altered, counterfeited, or unauthorized is a type of bank fraud.
Money laundering involves money that has been gained illicitly and individuals who try to give it the appearance of being legitimately earned. While money laundering doesn’t involve assets that belong to a bank directly, it does involve lying to a bank regarding the origin of the money. Therefore, bank fraud charges are often brought alongside money laundering charges.
Internet Banking Fraud, Phishing Schemes, and Bank Impersonation
Electronic bank fraud occurs when an individual tricks others into depositing money or submitting payment to a fake account by impersonating a bank or creating a fake website or fabricated financial institution.
Phishing happens via emails that are sent to lure unsuspecting victims into fraudulently making a payment or otherwise sending money under false pretenses.
Accounting Fraud/Fraudulent Loans
Banks and other financial institutions rely heavily on the information that customers provide them when deciding whether to issue loans, lines of credit, or credit cards. Loan fraud is a type of bank fraud that occurs when someone fakes an identity or provides false information on a loan application in order to receive a loan or provides false information about a company in order to hide financial issues or previous financial history to make it appear that their business is a safe investment.
Loan fraud can also happen when a person or business seeks out a bank loan with the intention of filing bankruptcy shortly thereafter. A recent, high-profile example of this type of fraud includes cases involving Paycheck Protection Program fraud.
Is Paycheck Protection Program Fraud a Type of Bank Fraud?
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress voted to provide $2 trillion of relief to American families and American business owners through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation included provisions for families with Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) and small business owners under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Businesses were required to provide information regarding the number of workers they employed to qualify for the funds. In its attempt to get the money into the hands of those who needed it as quickly as possible, the government’s application process for PPP funding was often confusing, with vague criteria surrounding who could qualify.
As a result, PPP loan fraud cases skyrocketed, with some small business owners who were seeking financial assistance in good faith being wrongfully accused of bank fraud. Criminal investigations and charges have since followed.
What Are the Penalties for Bank Fraud Under State and Federal Law?
Bank fraud is typically charged at the federal level because it involves the nation’s financial institutions. The U.S. Secret Service is responsible for investigating bank fraud and ensuring the security of those institutions. Under federal statute, a bank fraud conviction is punishable by fines of up to $1 million and 30 years imprisonment.
Nebraska state statute also protects consumers from bank fraud crimes, with convictions ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies. Nebraska Revised Statute 28-619 reads that it’s illegal to knowingly provide false bank statements to obtain a financial transactional device, which covers credit cards, debit cards, loans and mortgages. It also prohibits the unlawful manufacture of fake credit and debit cards.
The severity of the penalties for bank fraud typically depends on the amount of money involved, the type of fraud that was committed, and other individual circumstances of the case. For example, unauthorized credit card use of less than $500 is a Class II misdemeanor under state law. However, if the amount of the transaction was between $500 and $1,500, the charges jump up to a Class I misdemeanor.
Charges over $1,500 are a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. It’s important to note that prosecutors can combine multiple charges of lesser dollar amounts together in order to increase the severity of the charges for the defendant. So, if a defendant is accused of three separate, smaller transactions that add up to more than $1,500, his or her charges may go from a misdemeanor to a felony.
How Can I Defend Myself Against Bank Fraud Charges or PPP Fraud?
Keep in mind that it must be clearly proven that the accused in a bank fraud case knowingly set out to make false statements or misrepresent themself with the intention to steal money or assets. An attorney who is knowledgeable in bank fraud cases might argue that the defendant didn’t set out to defraud anyone.
In the case of PPP loans, if a business owner made false representation on a PPP loan application, but didn’t realize it, he or she may have a strong defense against bank fraud charges. Many business owners were accused of inflating their employment numbers in order to receive extra funds through PPP or applying for funds and then closing their business for good. In many cases, application was made prior to employees leaving the business in favor of more stable employment during the pandemic or before the business was forced to go out of business entirely.
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The attorneys at Berry Law have defended hundreds of clients against charges of bank fraud and other federal white-collar crimes. They are the premier choice in the Omaha and Lincoln area for criminal defense. Let one of their experienced criminal defense attorneys explain how bank fraud cases work, the charges against you, and what they would suggest in building a strong defense today. Reach out today to schedule a consulation.