judge gavel next to handcuffsThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing defending against criminal fraud charges in Peoria, Illinois. My previous article provided an overview of the topics to be discussed throughout this series. It also stressed the importance of retaining experienced criminal defense counsel to help defend you against such charges. Doing so can help ensure that your legal rights are protected and that all potential defense strategies are explored on your behalf. In this article, I will review the definition of criminal fraud under Illinois law. I will also review the potential penalties one may face if convicted of fraud within our state. If you have been accused of fraud, contact my office today to speak with an attorney.

Criminal fraud is generally defined as any act in which one person intentionally misrepresents information to another for the purpose of either inducing the other person to act or gaining something of value. Fraud can be distinguished from theft by the fact that the individual, organization, or entity that has been victimized was deliberately deceived by the perpetrator. Under various provisions of Illinois law, a broad range of criminal offenses relate to fraudulent behavior. These include state benefits fraud, identity theft, financial institution fraud, consumer fraud, and more. Actions such as applying for unemployment benefits using false information or engaging in a sales scam over the phone may each lead to charges. Other, less obvious, activities may also be punishable as fraud. For instance, floating a check to pay for utilities when the funds have not yet been deposited or lying about receiving a college degree on an application for employment with a city or state agency may constitute an offense. Under certain circumstances, conduct may result in federal charges. This includes when the accused has allegedly defrauded a federal agency, such as the IRS or social security, or when the scheme involves the use of interstate communications or impacts victims in multiple states.

The penalties for fraud depend largely on the specific type of activities involved, the identity of the victims, and the financial impact of the crime. Depending upon these factors, fraud charges can range from misdemeanors to serious felony charges. In most cases, convictions result in significant fines and potential jail time. For instance, the penalty for a person convicted of insurance fraud by making false claims to recover money or property depends upon the value of the payment or property the individual wrongly gained. If the amount is $300 or below, the offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If the amount is between $301-$10,000, the offense would be a Class 3 felony, punishable by between two and five years in jail and a $25,000 fine. A person who gained more than $100,000 by committing insurance fraud would be charged with a Class 1 felony and may be sentenced to up to fifteen years behind bars plus a $25,000 fine. In many cases, individuals are also required to pay restitution to their victims. Penalties for federal fraud convictions will be based upon the federal sentencing guidelines, which may be even more severe.

In light of the potential consequences of a fraud conviction, I cannot overemphasize the importance of retaining an experienced criminal lawyer to vigorously defend you against such charges. If you have been charged with fraud, then contact my office to speak with an attorney. In addition to Peoria, we also serve clients in Bloomington, Decatur, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington and the counties of Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford. Additional areas where we handle federal cases include Benton, Chicago, East St. Louis, Springfield, and Urbana.