San Diego Fraud Defense Attorney

Fraud crimes, often referred to as white collar crimes, fall into several categories. In simple terms, when an individual has lied or has been deceptive for their own personal gain, they have committed fraud. These types of crimes are listed as civil, criminal or in some cases, both and can carry serious penalties if convicted.

A fraud conviction is dependent on a variety of factors including severity of the charge, if there is more than one charge issued at the time of arrest, and if the person has been previously charged with a similar offense. While each state has its own criteria for what constitutes a fraud crime, there are cases that are more commonly recognized than others.

If you have been charged with a fraud crime in San Diego, you need a California criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in this area of law and has the credentials necessary to successfully defend you. Stephen Cline has over 20 years of experience handling all types of criminal cases and is known for his aggressive pursuit of justice. Contact his office today for a free consultation.

What Is Fraud in California?

The act to commit fraud is often motivated by either financial prosperity or to divert criminal responsibility. Under fraud crimes, theft, forgery and perjury laws all apply. These kinds of cases can often become complex and requires legal representation that is not only knowledgeable in laws pertaining to fraud, but also has the resources and experience necessary to pursue an effective defense.

There are two general ways to define criminal fraud law in California. You may be charged with a fraud crime if you have committed an act that results in an undeserved benefit to yourself or if you cause harm or loss to another person.

Many instances of fraud also are considered a federal crime and will be punished as such if convicted. The return of a guilty verdict for a fraud charge in California can also affect a person’s immigration status. Certain convictions can be cause for a non-citizen’s deportation regardless of how long he or she has lived in the United States.

What Are the Penalties of a Fraud Conviction in California?

Individuals convicted of fraud in San Diego face expensive fines and prison sentences. When a judge decides sentencing for a fraud charge, there will be several factors that will be taken into account. There will be consideration of whether the crime was a misdemeanor or felony and whether it is a CA state charge or a federal violation.

The severity of the charge will also determine the conviction penalty. A misdemeanor crime can result in fines of less than a few thousands of dollars, while a felony conviction can escalate to $10,000 or more. Often people convicted of fraud will also have to pay restitution to victims for any damages and losses suffered.

A misdemeanor versus a felony conviction can also mean the difference between a short jail term and an extended federal prison stay. When an individual is sentenced with probation, this allows for the person to stay out of jail, but still does not supply complete legal freedom to the person convicted. There are requirements that must be upheld by a person issued a probation sentence; otherwise, jail may still be the end result.

What Determines a Federal Fraud Crime?

The criteria that determines if a case is going to be charged as a federal matter includes:

  • Types of law violated
  • Operation methods
  • Use of any public services (i.e. U.S. Postal Service)
  • Crime location (if the crime occurred in-state or across state or national borders)
  • Amount of money involved and/or type of scheme

The punishment for a federal crime as opposed to a charge heard at the state level is typically more severe and requires the knowledge of an attorney working at that level.

What Are the Defenses for Fraud in California?

Each fraud case is unique and there are different strategies and defenses attorneys use. For example, a lawyer might argue that there was no intention to commit fraud or that the person was the victim of mistaken identity or that police entrapment was involved. These are the most common types of defenses, but may or may not be applicable to a particular charge as all cases differ.

It’s best to speak directly with a fraud attorney, if you’ve been charged with a crime, to understand your legal rights and options under California law.

No Fraudulent Intent

In terms of criminal activity, intention is often an integral part of preparing a defense. If it was not an individual’s objective to take part in fraudulent activity, then a fraud charge cannot be held against that person. For example, if a person pays with a check with the understanding that there is enough money in his or her bank account to cover the costs, that person cannot be charged with fraud. Without fraudulent intentions, there was no criminal activity taking place.

Mistaken Identity

There are certain situations that may allow an attorney to prepare a defense regarding mistaken identity. If a victim incorrectly identifies a person as responsible for fraud or an individual is identified under the assumption of fraudulent identity, that person cannot be charged with fraud.

Crimes and the charges that apply to them must be based off factual information, not another person’s suspicions. Due to the nature of these crimes, they almost always have substantial documents related to the underlying crimes and the investigation that followed.

A San Diego fraud attorney will be able to fully investigate the evidence presented in these types of cases to create a defense.

Police Entrapment

Entrapment can serve as a legal defense against fraud, but is often harder to prove. In order for this to be a plausible defense, there must be documented evidence that an individual was involved in a crime they would not have otherwise committed without the coercion from a police officer.

It is not enough for an undercover police officer to present an opportunity to commit a crime. To be considered entrapment, there must be aggressive behavior, such as threats or harassment, which would convince a person to commit the crime.

Common Types of Fraud

Fraud is an all-encompassing term that serves as the top tier for more specific charges. Crimes that fall under the category of fraud include:


Forgery may include Internet fraud, false impersonation or production of a fake ID or driver’s license.

Identity Theft

Misusing a person’s information, including details such as name and social security number, for financial or personal gain is the basics of identity theft crime.

Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud

Fraud in this category includes foreclosure fraud, property flipping and straw buying (when a person complete a transaction for an individual who is not legally allowed to do so).

Wire Fraud

These are schemes to obtain money or property through use of interstate wire services, such as bank transfers.

Fraud Offenses Involving Elders

Elderly people are sometimes taken advantage of, often by loved ones entrusted with managing their finances.

Check and Credit Card Fraud

Check fraud occurs when a person uses a check that he or she knows will not be honored. Credit card fraud is when a person uses a credit card that does not belong to them without permission of the owner.

Mail Fraud

When a scheme involve the U.S. Postal Service or mail carriers, mail fraud can apply.

Telemarketing Fraud

Marketing over the phone under false pretenses to encourage a person to provide personal or financial information is identified as telemarketing fraud.

Insurance Fraud

Individuals who report false information to insurance companies in order to benefit or gain an advantage in some way are subject to insurance fraud charges. Alternatively, if an insurer wrongfully and knowingly denies a benefit due to a policyholder, this is also subject to insurance fraud.


Producing or circulating fake currency, documents or goods is a fraud crime.

This does not maintain a comprehensive list of the types of fraudulent activity that a person can be charged with, but it does detail some of the most prevalent.

Hiring a San Diego Fraud Attorney

When it comes to criminal defense in San Diego, Stephen Cline has more than 20 years of legal experience, working first as a public defender and then entering into private practice. The Law Offices of Stephen Cline specializes in criminal defense on both the state and federal level and upholds a reputation of diligently pursuing successful verdicts for every client.

Each fraud crime is unique and requires special attention when planning a defense.  If you have been charged with fraud of any kind, contact our law firm today by calling (619) 235-5638 or fill out the form on this page for a free consultation to discuss your next steps. Don’t delay.