How Long Can You Go to Jail for Fraud Schemes in Arizona?
Fraudulent schemes are serious offenses in Arizona, and the punishment for fraud can be steep, including prison sentences ranging from three to 35 years. In addition to jail time, penalties for Arizona fraudulent schemes often include restitution to the victim and a heavy fine.
Your personal life may also experience lasting consequences even after you’ve completed your punishment. An Arizona fraud attorney at The Law Offices of Brandon White can help you fight charges for fraudulent schemes/artifices and defend you in court if necessary.
What Is a Fraudulent Scheme?
Arizona law explicitly notes two types of fraud schemes: criminal and civil. The difference between them is the perpetrator’s intent.
Civil fraud typically involves acting in bad faith. The perpetrator must return any money or property obtained under false pretenses or make restitution so the victim is financially complete. Criminal fraud charges, however, assume that the perpetrator set out to deceive intentionally.
What is a fraudulent scheme, exactly? In Arizona, fraud consists of four components:
- There is a deliberate misrepresentation of fact.
- The misrepresentation is made by a party that knows or believes the fact is untrue.
- The victim justifiably relied on the assertions of the deceitful party.
- The victim suffered financial injury or loss due to the deceit or misplaced belief.
Each of these elements must be proven individually, beyond a doubt, for the accused to be convicted of fraud. Hiring a criminal defense attorney familiar with fraudulent schemes, artifices, and similar offenses can help you protect your rights.
Types of Fraud Schemes in Arizona
The Arizona Revenue System (ARS) classifies several types of fraudulent schemes, most of which involve manipulating ordinary systems to achieve the desired financial results.
The Arizona Revised Statutes names several common ARS fraudulent schemes:
- Bank fraud, in which financial investments owned by the bank are manipulated or independently controlled.
- Computer tampering, altering software, installing a virus on a computer or system, or acquiring access to confidential or sensitive information.
- Theft, either through the unauthorized use of money, materials, or technology or gaining control of items belonging to another person.
- Mortgage fraud or manipulating the housing lending system for personal financial gain.
These aren’t the only ARS fraud schemes. The ARS 13-2310 statute also lists many other fraudulent schemes, including:
- Money laundering
- Welfare fraud
- Internet fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Escrow services fraud
- Identity theft
- Business opportunities schemes
- Auction fraud
- Debt elimination schemes
Depending on the acts in question, some people may be charged with multiple forms of fraud in Arizona. As a general rule of thumb, if you intentionally or knowingly engaged in deception to achieve financial gain, you could be charged with fraud.
Sentences for Fraudulent Schemes in Arizona
Fraud sentencing in Arizona is contingent on the value of the fraud. Even if the perpetrator didn’t profit from the crime, the law looks at the value of the victim’s loss, not the accused's gain.
Sentences include either jail or prison time; most fraud charges constitute a Class 2 felony in the state, with prison terms of up to 12.5 years for an aggravated Class 2 felony conviction. Aggravating factors extend the sentence length and are often part of the victim's impact.
If you’ve already been convicted of fraud, your current charge is eligible for enhanced sentencing, in which case you may serve from 4.5 to 25 years in prison. Having more than two fraud convictions on your criminal record could result in a sentence of a minimum of ten years, no matter your current charge.
Fraud sentences can include:
- First Offense: Probation, up to one year in jail, or a prison sentence of three-12.5 years.
- One Conviction: Prison term of 4.5-23.25 years.
- Two Convictions: Prison sentence of 10.5-35 years.
Some people may be eligible for probation instead of jail time. If you can make full restitution to the victims and it’s your first offense, you may avoid going to jail.
However, if the value of the fraud is greater than $100,000, you will go to jail if convicted, even if it’s your first offense. And Arizona courts often require restitution, even with sentences that include jail time.
Fraud convictions can seriously hamper your employment options. Many companies won’t hire someone convicted of fraud, especially for sensitive IT or financial service positions. That’s why having a skilled criminal attorney on your side is vital.
Possible Legal Defenses Against Fraud Charges
A skillful fraud lawyer can protect your rights and advocate for you in court, presenting compelling evidence on your behalf. Your representative from The Law Offices of Brandon White may employ several defenses, depending on your circumstances. These include:
- Lack of Intent to Defraud: Fraud is only present when the perpetrator seeks to intentionally manipulate the victim for gain. Your lawyer will argue that your actions weren’t intended to deprive the victim of money or property and therefore don’t constitute fraud.
- Victim’s Consent: You may be able to fight your charges if your attorney proves the victim consented to your use of their money or property for your actions. If the victim was aware of your plans and willingly allowed you to have or use the money or property, there’s no fraud.
- No Benefit: You might have been falsely accused of fraud, in which case your lawyer may call the accuser’s credibility into question. You may be able to prove you received no benefit from the actions you’re accused of and therefore did not commit the act.
- Procedural Defenses: This defense calls into question the manner in which law enforcement officers obtained the evidence or testimony against you. If evidence was obtained illegally or improperly, the judge might suppress it.
Depending on the nature of the case, your lawyer might use more than one of these defenses to minimize the evidence against you or challenge its legitimacy.
Do I Need an Attorney If I’m Charged with Fraudulent Schemes?
The penalties for fraud in Arizona are severe. As such, it’s unwise to attempt to defend yourself.
A criminal defense lawyer with experience defending against fraud charges will understand the state’s proof requirements and how it can legally obtain evidence to prove its case. Lawyers are level-headed experts in criminal cases, and your representative will have your interests in mind — no one else’s.
Your lawyer will conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of the alleged fraud. In the best case, they may uncover evidence that exonerates you or point out that you didn't benefit from the scheme.
They may also be able to prove that you received permission to use the property and money as you did and that the victim’s loss was simply the result of a misjudged investment or business.
Even if you’re convicted of fraud, your criminal defense attorney can work to mitigate the punishment by fighting for probation instead of jail time or reducing the length of your sentence or the amount of restitution you must pay.
Do You Need Help Defending Against Fraud Charges in Arizona?
If you’ve been charged with fraud in Arizona, you don’t have to face the justice system alone. The experienced fraud defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Brandon White can stand by you in court and provide a skilled defense on your behalf.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.
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