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Houston Fraud & Forgery Attorney
In Texas, fraud means obtaining property or money by subversive means. Using stolen credit card information or falsifying credit applications is considered fraudulent behavior. Investigators will build a case against you by monitoring purchases, getting copies of checks signed by your hand, and tracking your IP address.
Forgery is a type of fraud and is defined as altering, creating, or using falsified written material for financial gain or at the detriment of others. Signing or obtaining a written document in someone else’s name counts as fraud. Falsifying ledgers, books, databases or other important records; uttering a forged instrument; or possessing forged instruments are all forgery.
Types of Fraud
- Identity theft. This is a very serious crime. Pretending to be someone else for personal gain or for defamatory purposes by using online accounts, social security numbers, or other personal information can range widely in punishment depending on the number of impacted victims or the number of victims’ compromised affects. Having fewer than five items is charged as a state jail felony, which carries a fine up to $10,000 and 2 years in a state jail. Judges will typically require convicted defendants to pay restitution to victims for money lost on court fees and any financial debts or credit they may have incurred. Identity theft still counts if the victim is elderly, dead, or otherwise incapacitated.
- Credit fraud. Lying about income, net worth, the severity of your financial obligations, or otherwise falsifying information to gain credit or other goods and services is considered credit fraud. This is typically less serious than identity theft.
- Forgery. Intent to defraud or steal money from another party by forging checks, altering check amounts, signing someone else’s name to a document, or creating fake documents for your benefit count as forgery. The severity of the crime will determine the defendant’s punishment.
- Small misdeeds with minimal impact may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a year in jail or $4,000.
- Defendants who alter or create credit card documentation, a deed, release, or other type of illegal authorization will be charged as a state jail felony.
- Third-degree felonies carry punishments of up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Defendants are charged with third degree felonies if they forge stocks, bonds, public records, or counterfeit money.
Other punishments are often paired with fraud. Even misdemeanor charges often include revoking the right to vote (you are considered untrustworthy) and the right to own a gun or have a gun license, and may result in revoking certain other licenses.
Defenses Against Fraud Charges
Defendants charged with fraud can sometimes argue they were acting in good faith that they were allowed to sign or change documents. Let’s say Tom was given a check from Lucy for $1,750. He gets to the bank and the teller realizes Lucy wrote “One thousand, seven hundred”. If Tom changed the “5” to a zero on the check to reflect the handwritten note, he is committing forgery. However, Tom may be able to argue that Lucy would have approved. In fact, he was taking fifty dollars less than she originally thought.
Mistaken identity and lack of crime are popular defenses. Mistaken identity is a defense in which someone else committed the crime, not you. Lack of crime says the check’s signature is real or that the smudge marks on the deed’s edges are from the original document author.
There are a variety of defenses available. If you have been charged with fraud, talk with a skilled criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.