Fraud Insurance Fraud

Several child pornography-related offenses are recognized and heavily penalized according to Florida’s legal code. Possession and transmission of child pornography are two offenses of which Floridians may find themselves accused despite lacking intent or even knowledge of possessing the prohibited material. These charges are serious felonies that carry well-defined maximum prison sentences for each count. Those accused of possession or transmission need the assistance of a skilled child pornography defense lawyer in Fort Lauderdale or Naples.

Any image that depicts a person under the age of 18 engaged in any type of sexual activity is generally defined as child pornography in Florida. Sexual conduct includes deviate sexual intercourse, actual sexual intercourse, simulated sexual intercourse, sadomasochistic abuse, sexual beastiality, and masturbation. Florida law treats each illegal image possessed as a distinct count. Therefore, the judge who applies sentencing will generally do so for each count, which may result in very long prison sentences stemming from a single incident in which the child pornography was found. A person may be charged separately for having tens or even hundreds of prohibited images of children. Possession of Child Pornography is a Third Degree felony; an individual who is convicted may be sentenced to a maximum of five years imprisonment, five years on probation, and a $5,000 fine for each count of possession. Therefore, anyone who is wrongfully accused of possession of child pornography should immediately contact a child pornography defense attorney in Naples or Fort Lauderdale.

Defenses against possession

There are cases in which child pornography may be found on an individual’s computer or digital device without the person’s knowledge that the prohibited material was present. In some cases, an person may have allowed a friend, family member, or neighbor borrow his or her computer, at which point, the explicit material depicting a child may have been downloaded. The owner may establish his or her innocence by proving he or she was not in possession of the computer at the time the pornographic file was accessed and downloaded. In other cases, a computer or device may be shared communally or otherwise located in an area to which multiple people have access. The state may have a much more difficult time establishing the accused person possessed the image if someone else also had free access to the computer when the image was downloaded. In other cases, someone may receive an illegal image in email spam or by clicking on a link without knowing the link will direct them to illegal pornography. Even if the individual attempts to delete the pornographic image in these situations, a thumbnail version may remain on the computer without the owner’s knowledge. Still, some people receive unsolicited illegal images from people they know. A knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale child pornography defense lawyer can help by enlisting experts to gather all the necessary evidence to help the accused present and establish his or her case in court.

Transmission of child pornography defenses

Distributing or transmitting child pornography is viewed as a severe offense and is sentenced accordingly. This offense is covered under Florida’s law against promoting a sexual performance by a child. To obtain a conviction, the state must prove:

  • The accused produced, directed, disbursed, or advertised any visual representation of available to be witnessed by spectators,
  • The visual representation depicted sexual activity by a child under the age of 18
  • The accused knew the visual representation constituted child pornography and still distributed it

Transmitting child pornography is also a third degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment, $5,000 fine, and five years probation per illicit image. However, if the accused is an authority figure at a school, and the pornographic image depicts a child who attends his or her school, the accused may face enhanced sentencing.

Transmission defenses

Although it may seem less plausible than accidentally clicking on a link that leads to a pornographic image, it is also possible to accidentally transmit images that depict child pornography. Similar to a wrongful accusation for child pornography possession, a wrongful accusation of transmission or distribution of sexual images of minors may also arise from the use of a public computer or cases in which the accused allowed someone to borrow his or her computer. An individual whose computer has been the target of hacking or a virus may also be accused if illegal images are sent from the computer while under control of the virus or hacker. An experienced Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer can help the accused party effectively raise the applicable defense and provide evidence that he or she did not knowingly distribute the illegal pornographic images.

Contact a lawyer as early as possible

Florida’s bankruptcy process requires that all owned property as well as any assets that are transferred to others within a specified period be listed. If a Naples or Fort Lauderdale resident files for bankruptcy, but omits information regarding assets, he or she may be investigated and charged with this type of fraud, a white collar crime that is categorized as a federal offense. The seriousness of related charges make it imperative that you retain an experienced bankruptcy fraud defense attorney who specializes in federal cases.

Bankruptcy fraud often takes place in one of four general forms:

  • The filer attempts to hide assets in an effort to avoid forfeiting them.
  • The filer deliberately submits false or incomplete documents.
  • A person files multiple times using false or real information, or a combination thereof, in multiple jurisdictions.
  • The filer bribes a court-appointed trustee.

Concealment

Approximately 70 percent of bankruptcy fraud cases involve the concealment of assets. Some people who file a bankruptcy claim are tempted to hide certain assets because creditors can only liquidate items that are disclosed by the debtor in the bankruptcy paperwork. A filer may illegally transfer assets to friends, associates, and family members in an effort to keep assets that would otherwise be liquidated. In some cases, a bankruptcy lawyer may also be accused of bankruptcy if he or she is alleged to have intentionally filed paperwork that included false information. Similarly, creditors may also be convicted of bankruptcy fraud if they provide false information in an effort to recover more money than the they are owed. Even trustees sometimes commit fraud by raiding bankruptcy funds for their own personal gain. Regardless, bankruptcy fraud is treated as a very serious crime with severe penalties.

Petition mills

Another form of bankruptcy fraud that is on the rise in the U.S. is the use of petition mills to defraud individuals. Petition mills present themselves as consulting agencies that can help tenants avoid eviction. The petition mill will file for bankruptcy in the tenant’s name and drag out the process while charging inflated fees. In the end, the tenant is left with bad credit and no savings.

Multiple filing

An individual may commit fraud by filing for bankruptcy in multiple jurisdictions by using the same name in some locations and aliases or other false information elsewhere. Filing in multiple jurisdictions delays asset liquidation by slowing down the entire bankruptcy process. While multiple filing does not alone constitute a criminal act, it is typically used as a tactic to facilitate concealment, which is illegal.

Punishments for bankruptcy fraud

The most immediate consequence of being convicted of bankruptcy fraud is the judge will typically refuse to discharge the individual’s debts and throw his or her case out of court. The court may also liquidate the person’s assets to pay creditors. In some cases, the plaintiff may agree to accept half of the payment owed in a deal that allows the debtor to reduce his or her imprisonment time by half. Bankruptcy crimes are investigated by the FBI. If the agency believes a crime took place, the case is then transferred to the Department of Justice for prosecution. If convicted, the defendant may be required to be monitored or go on probation, go to prison for up to twenty years, pay a fine of up to $250,000 for each count, pay restitution, and/or complete a required amount of community service. Bankruptcy fraud often takes place in combination with other crimes which may include perjury, tax fraud, bank fraud, wire mail fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy, each of which are charged as separate and distinct violations that carry their own sentencing.

Defense options

There are several defenses an accused person may raise in response to being accused of bankruptcy. Perhaps the most obvious defense is to claim he or she provided false information or failed to disclose certain assets by mistake. A defendant may submit evidence that his or her attorney knew about the undisclosed assets or information that was omitted and argue that he or she simply did not notice prior to submitting the documents to court that there were omissions or false information. Similarly, a defendant may prove he or she did not intend to commit fraud by producing paperwork that was submitted to correct the false information or omission once discovered by the defendant. In some cases, the defendant may argue that his or her actions were actually done for a legitimate purpose despite appearing to be fraudulent. For example, he or she may have sold an asset to take advantage of a tax break or transferred the asset to help a family member who needed assistance at the time. Bankruptcy cases are also subject to statutes of limitations; therefore, if the action is brought after the deadline has elapsed, the defendant may argue that he or she cannot be convicted because the case was filed outside of the legally permissible time frame.

Retain a skilled attorney

Florida’s annual hurricane season makes the state especially prone to fraudulent insurance claims. However, insurance fraud may take place in areas other than real estate. Anyone who insures a product may be the victim of a false claim. Florida law defines insurance fraud as the act of submitting an insurance claim based on false, exaggerated, or deliberate injury or loss. It is also illegal to provide false information on an application for insurance. Even the act of making an exaggerated claim may be considered to be insurance fraud. In some cases, an unscrupulous company may illegally sell customers unlicensed or nonexistent insurance policies, or a broker or representative may illegally divert customers’ premiums for his or her own personal use. In all cases, these charges are very serious, and you need the guidance of an experienced Fort Lauderdale or Naples insurance fraud attorney to protect your rights – and possibly your freedom.

Types of insurance fraud

Insurance fraud and schemes are often categorized as “hard” or “soft.” Hard fraud occurs when someone deliberately fakes an accident, injury, theft, arson, or other loss to file a claim and collect an insurance payout. Perpetrators may act alone or participate in organized crime rings that support each other in committing fraud. Soft fraud occurs when an everyday person exaggerates or makes a comparatively small misrepresentation in the interest of maximizing payout. People often believe soft fraud is harmless; however, it is a criminal offense that has the effect of raising the general cost for others to purchase and maintain insurance. Other specific forms of insurance fraud include:

  • false auto accident claims
  • false slip and falls
  • false disability claims
  • medical providers billing for services they did not provide
  • using some else’s identity to obtain health care services

How it’s detected

Computer programs that analyze claims data often raise initial red flags that cause claims to be investigated for fraud. Once an insurance investigator detects the possibility of fraud, he or she may employ a variety of different tactics to establish a basis upon which to deny the claim or to formally accuse the individual of a criminal act of fraud. Traditional tactics like hiring a private investigator to conduct a stakeout and surveillance of the potentially fraudulent claimant’s activities. For example, if a Fort Lauderdale resident who filed a claim for a back injury is observed training for a marathon, video evidence of the claimant participating in strenuous physical activity may be introduced as evidence in court.

Social media’s role

In recent years, people have become more comfortable with sharing the details of their leisure activities and personal lives on their social media accounts. As a result, social media has become a valuable tool for insurance fraud investigators. Some people are caught committing fraud as a result of sharing contradictory photos and posting updates on their social media accounts that indicate they provided false information. Others may avoid posting potentially incriminating information about themselves directly, but are still caught as a result of family members and friends unknowingly publicly sharing photos and information about the claimant that expose his or her misrepresentation.

How is it proven?

Defense cases against insurance fraud allegations are usually focused on disproving one or more required elements of the crime. To prove insurance fraud and obtain a conviction against the accused, prosecutors must establish the following elements:

  • The defendant intentionally made a false or misleading statement on an insurance claim.
  • The false statement made was in connection with a payment made or set to be made under the terms of the insurance policy.
  • The statement is of material importance to the case.

Possible penalties

Insurance fraud is a federal offense. Soft fraud is usually a misdemeanor in most states. In these states, offenders may be sentenced to up to one year in prison and/or ordered to pay a fines, complete community service, or be put on probation. However, in Florida, most fraud cases are felonies. Therefore, whether a person is convicted of hard or soft fraud, he or she is much more likely to be sentenced to one year or longer in prison and/or ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 or more. An individual who is convicted of hard fraud in Florida may be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years imprisonment and ordered to pay up to $50,000 in fines.

Charged in Ft Lauderdale or Naples?

People who embellish details on insurance claims are usually unaware that they may be charged with a felony and sentenced to time in prison if they are caught. Anyone who is under investigation for insurance fraud should immediately contact a Naples or Fort Lauderdale insurance fraud defense attorney to discuss the best way to respond to the accusation. Accused claimants should contact an attorney prior to speaking to investigators, if possible, as people often inadvertently reveal information during preliminary conversations that may later be used to obtain a conviction. In cases in which a person is wrongfully accused of insurance fraud, an experienced insurance fraud defense attorney can help the individual prove his or her lack of intent to commit fraud. In any case, an attorney can advise the accused party of his or her legal options at every stage of the investigative and criminal court process.