The most commonly used federal statute for prosecuting bank fraud is 18 U.S.C. §1344. This makes it a federal crime to participate in a scheme to defraud a federally insured financial institution - generally, any bank or credit union whose deposits are federally insured - or to obtain money controlled by, or property owned by a financial institution using false or fraudulent statements. Another provision of §1344 makes it a crime to knowingly participate in a scheme against a bank by means of material false pretenses or statements. The potential penalties for bank fraud are severe: a $1,000,000 fine, 30 years of imprisonment, or both. State laws, too, criminalize this type of fraud, and often such laws apply to a very wide range of conduct.
Although many instances of bank fraud overlap with the more general laws prohibiting wire fraud and mail fraud, there is a critical distinction between them. The federal statute of limitations for mail and wire fraud is five years, meaning once five years have passed after an act constituting mail or wire fraud, an individual cannot be prosecuted for the crime. The bank-fraud statute doubles that to ten years.
While bank fraud is an exceptionally broad crime, defenses do exist. A prosecutor must prove, for example, that a misrepresentation to a financial institution was “material,” that is, capable of influencing a bank’s actions. If you have been charged with this crime, hiring an attorney experienced in cases involving complex financial transactions will be critical.
A common recent bank fraud example is mortgage fraud, in which one or more persons make misrepresentations in connection with a bank issuing a mortgage loan. An appraiser or underwriter, for instance, might artificially inflate a property’s value to induce a bank to lend more than the property is worth, with the loan excess then siphoned off from the transaction.
If you have been charged with any type of state or federal bank fraud crime, hiring a bank fraud lawyer experienced in cases involving complex financial transactions is critical. Employing a lawyer on your behalf before you talk to a police officer or federal agent is one of your rights as an American. The attorneys at Birrell Criminal Defense have handled many complex bank fraud cases involving unique legal and factual issues. We encourage you to speak with us privately before you talk to anyone else about these matters. Contact us today.
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