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April 9, 2008 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Hypotheticalcriminalfilter: if someone was allegedly caught committing fraud against another person (specifics to follow) what would the exact legal charges be (felony fraud/misdemeanor fraud, etc.) and what would the likely sentence be if that person had charges filed against them and was found or pled guilty?

I'm looking for what the answer would be if this person was caught and the crimes were committed in the state of California.

Case #1: Let's say person A allegedly stole person B's brand new debit card, authorized it and took approximately $200 out of the account without knowledge of person B.

Case #2: Let's say person A allegedly took a blank check of person B's (again without their knowledge) and cashed it for approximately $8000.00, most likely forging a signature.

Bonus Questions:

A. Is there any way that person A could've allegedly taken money out of person b's equity accounts without their knowledge? How would that be possible? If it is true, how could it be proven?

B. What about if person A allegedly borrowed a large sum of money from person B... what would happen if person A had the paperwork destroyed and denied the loan ever happened and it was a gift? Has this money just vanished never to be seen again? Is there anything that can be done on person B's behalf without their involvement? Assume person B is too incapacitated to handle this themselves.

Note: I'm neither person A or person B. I'm just law abiding person C, who really wants to trust people but also believes in justice and in not being stupid.
posted by miss lynnster to Law & Government (13 answers total)
 
Just trying to focus on finding out the truth. I'm out of my element so your insights are very appreciated.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2008


IANAL, but neither Case #1 nor #2 are examples of fraud alone. They both start off with examples of plain-jane theft.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:56 AM on April 9, 2008


Which will complicate the ensuing criminal proceedings, is what I'm saying.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:57 AM on April 9, 2008


Not saying there will be criminal proceedings, by the way. Just trying to analyze how serious these things are and how to view them.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2008


Not being a California lawyer, I can't say what they would be charged with (though "false personation" and "forgery" sound likely). With regard to sentencing, it is impossible to say based on what you have provided. First-time offenders routinely get NO jail time even for fairly large thefts and economic crimes. A first-time offender may even be eligible for expungement of the offense after going into certain programs. If the person has prior criminal history, the offense can vary widely. It also depends on whether the offense is prosecuted in federal or state court. Federal sentences tend to be much stiffer, the sentencing process more unforgiving, than in state courts, and federal sentences generally have to be served at a higher percentage prior to release, than in many states.
posted by jayder at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2008


If the person has prior criminal history, the offense can vary widely.

That should have said, "the sentence can vary widely."

Generally, when these kind of offenses are committed by someone with negligible criminal history, the leniency of the sentencing in state courts is sometimes pretty shocking to laypeople.
posted by jayder at 11:06 AM on April 9, 2008


Case #1: Let's say person A allegedly stole person B's brand new debit card, authorized it and took approximately $200 out of the account without knowledge of person B.

Case #2: Let's say person A allegedly took a blank check of person B's (again without their knowledge) and cashed it for approximately $8000.00, most likely forging a signature.


These are examples of conversion or theft, not fraud. however, A could have defrauded the bank in case No. 2. Complex UCC questions here.

You can get money out of an equity account without someone knowing initially. Some accounts are linked to ATM cards if I'm not mistaken.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:13 AM on April 9, 2008


It seems possible - and IANAL - that an identity theft may have occurred.

I say this because I know of someone to whom the above scenarios have occurred. The criminal in question received halfway-house time, probation, had to make restitution of the full amounts, etc. The original charge was Theft by Taking with a couple of other things.

While on probation, this mastermind pulled a similar stunt (the identity theft), had probation revoked and is on the way to prison, this being the Third Strike.
posted by jquinby at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2008


Let's say person A allegedly stole person B's brand new debit card, authorized it and took approximately $200 out of the account without knowledge of person B.

Yes, if an account is tied to a card, it can be done, assuming that A also has the PIN. Something similar happened with two people I know very well many years ago; in CA, oddly enough. Both of them were minors, though, and it was within a family, so there were no legal proceedings. (The thief eventually ended up getting over her kleptomania by her mid/late-teens, so it's probably for the best, even if the victim has still never forgiven.)

If it's a question of whether it could be authorized w/out B's knowledge, IME as long as A knows the last 4 digits of B's SSN, absolutely.

The credit union where I work has a process for reporting card fraud, and IIRC from many years ago when I had a debit card NUMBER stolen, the financial institution generally goes after the criminal as fraud against the institution. (Pretending to be someone you're not, basically.) Of course, IANAFinancial Professional, so my knowledge is pretty superficial, and in this case limited to Washington state.

IA(also)NAL, but my general impression is that this all comes down to the testimony of the parties involved, and so (just guessing!) the impression made on a jury. (Or whatever. IAsoveryNAL.)

Also: ugh, this sounds really nasty. My condolences: I've been person C, or a variant thereof, and it totally sucks.
posted by epersonae at 11:44 AM on April 9, 2008


In Case 1, was the new debit card stolen straight from the mail? If so, then you can get the Postal Inspectors involved, and it becomes mail fraud. (On top of theft, etc.)
posted by inigo2 at 12:04 PM on April 9, 2008


IANAL, obviously, but I want to add that if Person B is elderly or incapacitated in some way, there might be "abuse of a dependent adult" charges as well; especially if A is a caretaker or family member.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2008


(inigo2: it's not mail fraud if it was stolen out of the mail box. Like the UCC questions Ironmouth mentioned above, mail fraud offenses--particularly as pertains to federal RICO claims--are generally mind-numbingly complex. Just taking someone's banking documents out of the mail is not mail fraud).
posted by crush-onastick at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2008


I imagine the card and checks were probably taken out of someone's desk.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2008


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