What is Bank Fraud?
Bank fraud is spelled out in Section 1344 of Title 18 of the United States Code. The statute makes it a crime to scheme to defraud a “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. 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.
Types of Bank Fraud
Bank fraud can take on many different forms. A common recent 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.
Charges & Penalties
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.
Bank Fraud Attorneys
Whether you want to go to trial or want a quiet settlement, you need a lawyer with the knowledge and experience to help you fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Having a lawyer before you talk to a police officer or federal agent is one of your rights as an American and it is wise to talk with a lawyer before you try to “go it alone” against powerful and experienced opposing forces. Lawyers at Gaskins Bennett & Birrell have handled many complex bank fraud cases involving unique legal and factual issues. Effective lawyers have to have a savvy understanding of these issues and a determination to wade through the facts and tell your side of the story.
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