Statute of Limitations for Fraud in California
Fraud is a legal concept that involves various types of deception, but at its basic level, fraud is an illegal act to deprive someone or some entity of something of value through deceit or manipulation – in other words, through means that are not open, honest, and transparent.
Many of us have probably been tempted to overstate our financial resources when applying for loans for cars or homes, but that kind of personal information is generally verifiable, and lenders are aware of the temptation. That being noted, fraud is considered a serious crime. Even misdemeanor fraud can land you in jail. Felony fraud can lead to serious prison time.
For misdemeanor fraud, the statute of limitations in California is three years. Felony fraud has a longer time limit of four years. Federal fraud charges can be brought as many as seven years after discovery, ten if a bank is involved. You can actually face both state and federal fraud charges.
Note the use of the wording “after discovery.” The statute of limitations does not expire from the date of the fraud, but from the date when the victim discovers the fraud, which could be months or even years after the actual act.
If you or a loved one are under investigation for or being charged with fraud in or around Long Beach, California, or nearby in Lakewood or Cypress Hill, contact me at the McCready Law Group. What you may think has long since passed may still be a legal issue you have to face. I will mount a strong defense to obtain the best possible result for you. Reach out immediately.
Types of Fraud
Overstating your assets on a loan application is fraud in some circumstances, though lenders will almost always verify anything you submit. However, other types of fraud are frequent throughout the nation, including California.
Some of the more common frauds carried out in California include:
AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE FRAUD: Willfully staging an accident or destroying a vehicle to make a claim are often employed and are covered under California Penal Code Section 548-551.
HEALTH INSURANCE FRAUD: This is done by both providers – overbilling or billing for services not renders – and by recipients, especially when trying to qualify for Medi-Cal benefits.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD: Making false or exaggerated claims to collect benefits.
UNEMPLOYMENT/WELFARE FRAUD: Seeking to obtain unemployment or welfare benefits when you’re not eligible.
REAL ESTATE/FORECLOSURE FRAUD: Trying to take advantage of someone in a foreclosure situation but really only wanting to obtain title to the property.
CHECKING ACCOUNT FRAUD: Using someone else’s checking information to write checks or withdraw funds.
CREDIT CARD FRAUD: Similar to checking account fraud, but using stolen or illegally obtained credit card information.
TELEMARKETING AND INTERNET FRAUD: Luring individuals through phone calls or Internet advertising/emails to take advantage of them with false offers or promises.
SENIOR FRAUD: If you try to defraud anyone 65 or older, or with a disability, your act then also falls under elder abuse.
SECURITIES FRAUD: Misstating a company's value; counterfeiting financial statements; altering financial statements; stealing from a company; and stealing from investors.
The list above is not comprehensive, as there are many other schemes to defraud people and institutions.
Penalties for Fraud
Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the fraud, criminal penalties can range widely. For instance, check fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in county jail, or as a felony with up to three years behind bars. Identify theft as a misdemeanor has a similar jail sentence and/or a fine of up to $1,000, and as a felony anywhere from 16 months to three years in prison.
Health insurance fraud of $950 or more can be charged as a misdemeanor with up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If charged as a felony, the term can range from one to five years, and/or a fine of up to $50,000. In other words, being convicted of fraud in California can result in serious consequences.
The Statute of Limitations: How Long Before Charges Can No Longer Be Filed?
The basic statute of limitations for fraud in California is three years, and four for felony fraud, but remember that the clock doesn’t start clicking until the victim realizes that fraud has been perpetrated on them. If you defrauded someone of their property ten years ago, but they just realized it today (maybe a stretch, but possible), then the statute of limitations starts clicking today, not a decade ago.
Get Help Strategizing Your Defense
If you or a loved one is facing a fraud investigation or criminal charge in or around Long Beach, California, or in surrounding communities, contact me immediately at my firm, the McCready Law Group. I will work with you on developing a strong defensive strategy starting with conveying your side of the story to prosecutors in an attempt to get the charges dropped or at least lessened.
I will have your back every step of the way, so your first phone call should be to my office. Reach out at the first sign of trouble.