27 Nov 23

Answering Your FAQs About Federal Fraud Charges in New York

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Last Updated on: 14th December 2023, 10:33 pm

Answering Your FAQs About Federal Fraud Charges in New York

If you or a loved one is facing federal fraud charges in New York, you likely have a lot of questions. I totally get it – this stuff can be confusing and scary. That’s why I put together this handy FAQ guide to walk you through the key things you need to know. I’ll aim to keep it simple and conversational, with some real-talk sprinkled in too.

What exactly are federal fraud charges?

Federal fraud charges are criminal charges brought by federal prosecutors (as opposed to state or local prosecutors) for offenses involving fraud or deception for illegal financial gain. Some of the most common federal fraud charges include:

  • Wire fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Bank fraud
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Identity theft

If convicted, federal fraud charges can result in hefty fines and many years behind bars. So ya, they’re serious business.

Why are there so many high-profile federal fraud cases in New York lately?

It does seem like we keep seeing big federal fraud cases coming out of New York these days. Recent examples include charges against Congressman George Santos, Sam Bankman-Fried, and a mass mailing fraud scheme targeting seniors. New York is a major financial hub — so more potential for big frauds. It’s also aggressive about going after financial crimes. And maybe some high-roller wannabe fraudsters are drawn to the glitz and glam of the Big Apple? Just my theories here.

How likely is it for federal prosecutors to get a conviction?

The federal conviction rate is no joke – we’re talking over 99% across all federal cases that go to trial. When it comes to financial crimes like fraud, federal prosecutors devote major time and resources to building rock-solid cases before ever filing charges. They know what they’re doing. So if you’re charged federally, you gotta take it seriously.

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That said, every case is different. Just because the overall odds aren’t great doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance. A skilled defense attorney may still be able to negotiate a plea deal or even win at trial if there are weaknesses in the government’s case.

What are potential penalties for federal fraud convictions?

This varies a lot based on the specific charges and dollar amounts involved. But generally federal fraud sentences involve:

  • Prison time – Years or even decades behind bars are possible for major fraud schemes. The higher the losses caused, the longer the likely sentence.
  • Fines – Can be as high as $250,000 per count or twice the amount of gains/losses.
  • Restitution – Having to repay victims for their losses from the fraud.
  • Probation – A set period of supervised release after doing prison time.

They may also seize assets obtained through the fraud. Bottom line – fraud convictions can totally upend lives.

What are common federal fraud defenses?

Pleading “not guilty” means your defense attorney can raise arguments like:

  • You didn’t actually commit the fraudulent acts.
  • You made a mistake but didn’t intend to defraud anyone (no criminal intent).
  • The government can’t prove specific elements of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You were entrapped or coerced into committing the fraud.

An experienced white collar defense lawyer will thoroughly investigate the prosecution’s evidence and witnesses for any openings to attack. They may file motions trying to get certain evidence or charges thrown out too. Building an affirmative defense requires getting creative at times.

What’s the process for federal fraud cases?

Here’s the usual timeline if your federal fraud case goes all the way through the system:

  1. Arrest & Indictment – This is when you’re taken into custody and the grand jury issues formal charges.
  2. Initial Appearance – You go before a judge who explains the charges and sets bail.
  3. Preliminary Hearing – The prosecution presents some evidence to show there’s good reason to move forward.
  4. Pre-Trial Motions – Your lawyer files legal motions arguing to dismiss certain charges or evidence.
  5. Trial – You present defense arguments and evidence to the jury (or judge in a bench trial).
  6. Sentencing – If convicted, the judge gives you your “time” based on sentencing guidelines.
  7. Appeal – You ask a higher court to review the conviction and sentence.

Most cases end in a guilty plea before trial, but this gives the basic process. Expect it to take many months at a minimum.

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What’s it like to serve federal prison time?

I won’t sugar coat it – doing time in any federal prison is extremely tough. Some lowlights include:

  • Lockdown for 23 hours a day initially.
  • Tight restrictions on visits and phone calls.
  • Constant surveillance and loss of privacy.
  • Communal living with dangerous inmates.
  • Bland food, lousy healthcare, and boredom.

White collar camps are a bit better than higher security facilities. But any federal time takes an enormous mental and emotional toll. Many find their relationships, health, and careers in shambles after just a few years inside.

What are your chances of appeal success?

Statistically, federal appeals courts affirm around 9 out of 10 criminal convictions. They know trial judges hate to be overturned. However, appeals in fraud cases do have better odds than average. Common appeal arguments by defense lawyers include:

  • Violations of your rights and due process.
  • Prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Mistakes by the judge regarding evidence or jury instructions.
  • Insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Thoroughly scouring the trial record for appealable errors is so important. Even long shot appeals must be filed properly to preserve issues.

What factors help achieve better case outcomes?

While the feds have all the advantages, certain things can help level the playing field for fraud defendants, including:

  • Getting experienced white collar defense counsel early.
  • Negotiating from a position of strength by having an impressive legal team.
  • Developing a full understanding of the prosecution’s strategy and evidence.
  • Humanizing you in front of prosecutors and judges.
  • Creative lawyering to find and exploit any case weaknesses.

The stakes are so high that you need top-notch representation and messaging from day one until the bitter end of sentencing. This stuff matters bigly.

What should you do if facing federal fraud charges?

Here are my tips if you or someone you know finds themselves accused of federal fraud crimes in New York:

  1. Stay calm and get a referral to an experienced white collar defense attorney immediately.
  2. Don’t talk about your case with anyone except your lawyer.
  3. Follow your attorney’s advice about whether to testify or accept a plea deal.
  4. Get character references from upstanding people to humanize you to the judge.
  5. Be completely open and honest with your legal team no matter how awkward.