Federal Fraud Penalties

Under federal law, fraud means to (1) conceal, misrepresent, or otherwise falsify a material fact; (2) make any materially false or fictitious representation or statement; or (3) make or use any false document or writing knowing that the content contains materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent information. 

If the fraudulent offense involved defrauding or attempting to defraud a U.S. government agency, defrauding or attempting to defraud federal banks or financial institutions, committing or attempting to commit fraud through a mail carrier or other forms of communication across state or international lines, computers used by the federal government or financial institutions for interstate and foreign commerce, or classified or privileged financial information or securities, then the offender may face federal criminal charges. 

Common forms of fraud, along with each offense’s federal penalties, include: 

  • Bank fraud – This offense is defined as knowingly using or attempting to use a scheme to defraud a bank or financial institution, or fraudulently obtain money, assets, property, or credit from a financial institution under false representations, promises, or pretenses. A conviction carries a maximum federal prison term of 30 years and/or a fine of up to $1 million. 

  • Bankruptcy fraud – This offense means to defraud or attempt to defraud a creditor or another party through bankruptcy court proceedings. Bankruptcy fraud is punishable by federal imprisonment for up to five years and/or a maximum fine of $250,000. 

  • Citizenship fraud – This offense is defined as falsely or willingly representing oneself as a U.S. citizen. Citizenship fraud carries a maximum federal prison sentence of three years and/or a fine not exceeding $250,000. 

  • Computer fraud – This offense means intentionally accessing a computer or electronic device without authorization or obtaining confidential information from a protected computer (e.g., government, financial institution, etc.) without authorization. Computer fraud is punishable by federal imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a maximum fine of $250,000 for a person or $500,000 for an organization. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by a maximum prison term of 20 years. 

  • Healthcare fraud – This offense is defined as knowingly and willfully committing or attempting to commit a fraud scheme against Medicare, Medicaid, or any healthcare benefit program. Healthcare fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and/or a fine of no more than $250,000 for a person or $500,000 for an organization. If there is a serious injury, a conviction is punishable by federal imprisonment for up to 20 years. If there is a death, a conviction can result in a life sentence. 

  • Identity theft – This offense means knowingly or unlawfully using another person’s identifying information to commit fraud. Federal identity theft carries a maximum prison term of 15 years and/or a fine not exceeding $250,000 for a person or $500,000 for an organization. If the offense involved a violent crime or drug trafficking, or if the defendant has a prior identity theft conviction, getting convicted is punishable by federal imprisonment for up to 20 years. 

  • Mail and wire fraud – This offense is defined as using a government or private mail carrier, telephone, fax, internet, radio, television, or any interstate or foreign wire communication to commit a fraud scheme. Mail and wire fraud are punishable by a federal imprisonment of up to 20 years and/or a maximum fine of $1 million. 

  • Mortgage and loan modification fraud – This offense means intentionally misrepresenting information on a mortgage loan application to secure a loan or a larger loan than what would have been approved with accurate information. Mortgage fraud carries a federal prison sentence of up to 40 years and/or a maximum fine of $1 million. 

  • Securities fraud – This type of fraud consists of a wide range of offenses, from running an investment scheme or Ponzi/pyramid scheme to insider trading and broker embezzlement. Securities fraud carries a maximum federal prison term of 25 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for a person or $500,000 for an organization. 

  • Tax fraud – This offense is defined as willfully attempting to evade paying your taxes, lying on your taxes, or failing to file a federal tax return (i.e., tax avoidance). Tax fraud is punishable by federal imprisonment of up to five years and/or a maximum fine of $100,000 for a person or $500,000 for an organization. Tax avoidance carries a maximum prison sentence of one year and/or a fine of no more than $25,000 for a person or $100,000 for an organization. 

Furthermore, getting convicted of a federal fraud offense also leads to victim restitution, losing your professional license, and years of supervised probation following prison release. Before you qualify for release, you must serve a minimum of 85 percent of your sentence. 

If you are facing federal charges in Massachusetts, New York, or New Hampshire, call Brad Bailey Law at (617) 500-0252 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Attorney Brad Bailey is a former state and federal prosecutor with more than five decades of trial-tested experience! 

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