DC Fraud Lawyer

Fraud cases in Washington DCIn the District of Columbia, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia prosecutes fraud and other theft offenses in the Superior Court.  There are several types of fraud and theft offenses and often the penalty depends on the total value of the goods or services fraudulently obtained.

To start with, DC law breaks up fraud crimes into first and second degree.  First degree fraud requires the government to prove three elements:

  1. The individual must engage in a “scheme or systematic course of conduct”. That means it must be a series of actions not just an isolated incident or single action.
  2. The person must have the “intent to defraud or obtain property by means of false or fraudulent pretense, representation, or promise.” Bottom line the conduct must be accompanied by a mindset or mens rea where the individual specifically intends to lie or trick another to obtain something of value.
  3. Finally, the person must succeed in either obtaining something of value or causing another to lose something. That means the fraud must be successful to complete the crime in the first degree.

Fraud in the second degree is basically the same crime minus the third element.  In other words, fraud in the second degree need not be successful.  It could be considered trying or attempting to defraud someone but not actually obtaining the goods or services or causing the person to actually lose property.  Typical fraud crimes can involve counterfeit or stolen checks.  While identity theft is a separate crime, there is some overlap between the two.  The bottom line is if someone lies or deceives someone else to get money or something else of value from that person, it’s likely a fraud was committed.

First degree fraud, where the value of the property is more than $250.00, carries a maximum penalty of $3,000.00 or three times the value of the property obtained fraudulently (whichever is greater) and a maximum prison sentence of 3 years.  Because the maximum penalty of first degree fraud is greater than one year it’s a felony offense.  On the other hand, if the value of the property is less than $250.00, the maximum penalty is 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine.  In that case, the offense is a misdemeanor.

Second degree fraud carries slightly lower penalties.  For example, where the value of the property is over $1,000.00, the maximum penalty is twice the value of the property and/or a 3 year maximum prison sentence.  If the value of the property is less than that, then it’s a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine.

Theft offenses in DC are similar to fraud type offenses except that they require a physical taking of property rather than a taking done by lying, misrepresenting, or trickery.  This could involve physically stealing someone’s cell phone or something to that effect.  When the value of the property stolen is $1,000.00 or more, its considered first degree theft and a felony.  The maximum penalty is 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000.00 fine.  If the value of the stolen property is less than $1,000.00, then it’s a misdemeanor crime with a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine.

Depending on the nature of the crime, the individual’s background or prior criminal history, and a willingness to pay restitution, the government may offer diversion for theft or fraud offenses in certain cases.  In any event, if you or someone you know is under investigation or been arrested for a fraud or theft offense, contact Scrofano Law PC today for a full case evaluation.