Fraud Flourishes in South Florida
South Florida is known for many things, including beautiful beaches, a booming nightlife and extensive cultural diversity. But according to recent reports, the sunny region earned a new and less complimentary distinction as the fraud capital of the nation.
Some of the infamous scams include:
- false lotteries;
- identity theft to purchase high dollar items;
- insurance claims for nonexistent fires and accidents ;
- sham marriages to secure immigration status;
- falsified income tax returns;
- selling poor quality seafood as high quality seafood;
- various mortgage frauds; and
- Medicaid/ Medicare fraud.
As stated in a report by Fox News, organized criminal activity is behind many of these illegal enterprises. Where the focus used to be on violent crime, it is now shifting to more sophisticated computerized crimes. George Piro is an FBI special agent in South Florida. He is quoted in the article as stating, “Identity theft, the fastest growing crime here, is as easy as one, two, three. One, criminals steal someone’s name and Social Security number. Two, they use that identity to file a fraudulent tax return online. And three, they collect the refund check. Repeat thousands of times.”
The Treasury Department reportedly estimates that more than 700,000 deceptive tax returns may have gone undetected by the federal government, resulting in more than $2.1 billion in fraudulent tax refunds. But the consequences are more than monetary. Letter carriers are being targeted for the theft of mail, which often includes confidential identifying information. A rash of recent robberies recently led to a $50,000 reward offer from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for information leading to an arrest.
Florida’s Definition of Fraud
Under Florida law, the crime of organized fraud is defined as “any person who engages in a scheme to defraud and obtains property.” The potential punishments for these crimes vary depending on the value of the property obtained.
- An aggregate value in excess of $50,000 is classified as a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
- An aggregate value between $20,000 and $50,000 is classified as a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.
- An aggregate value under $20,000 is classified as a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.
In prosecuting a fraud case, the state must prove that the defendant intended to commit fraud. In defending the most common types of fraud actions, a capable lawyer can assert that the defendant’s actions were not done with a fraudulent intent. Instead, the resulting injury may stem from a mistake, a poor business decision or a misunderstanding between parties to a contract. Fortunately for defendants, fraud cases can prove challenging for prosecutors.
If you or a loved one is facing fraud charges, it is imperative that you reach out to a skilled lawyer in Miami. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.