The term "bank fraud" can be used to define various white collar crimes regarding finances that are non-violent, and do not lead to physically injuring another person. In most circumstances, bank fraud takes place when at least one person uses illegal means to access money or assets from a bank, credit union, or similar financial institution, and this typically involves some form of forgery.
Importantly, it's worth noting that bank fraud is different from bank robbery, because in a case of bank fraud, the perpetrator in question keeps the crime as secret as possible for as long as possible in the hopes that they will not be noticed. Sometimes, bank fraud as a crime can also refer to attempts that are made to obtain money from the depositors of a bank by pretending to be a financial institution. Bank fraud can also be a crime that is committed by a bank.
In Massachusetts, fraud involving bank transactions is considered as larceny and is covered by Section 33 of Chapter 266 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Bank officers may also commit fraud, and this is covered by Section 52 of Chapter 266.
Examples of Bank Fraud
It's worth noting that many types of bank fraud that are conducted are also considered crimes that are involved with interstate commerce, and crimes in interstate commerce are typically designated as federal crimes. Because the associations with bank fraud can lead to convictions of federal crime, it's important to note that the penalties may sometimes be severe, and even life-altering.
As mentioned previously, there are different types of bank fraud that can lead to convictions and prosecutions for individuals. Some of the most common types of bank fraud might include:
- The impersonation of a bank - This crime takes place when a person or group pretends to be a financial institution with the intent to defraud other individuals and often convince them to deposit funds, often, impersonating a bank or financial institution will require individuals to set up a fake company front, or website that will lure people into using their services.
- Forgery - Crimes of forgery take place when a person chooses to alter a check that has been given them, either by changing the name on the check, or altering other information, such as the amount that check has been made out for. Forging a signature with the intent to cash or deposit a check also falls into the category of forgery and bank fraud.
- Stealing checks - In some cases, bank fraud cases can involve individuals who use fraud and other means to get jobs within banking and financial environments. These people get access to mail where they might be able to open their own bank account, then steal checks that they can deposit into that bank account for themselves.
- Fraudulent loans - Finally, people who take out loans understanding that they will need to file immediately for bankruptcy can be classed as committing a bank fraud crime. This conviction may also apply when a person uses a false identity in an attempt to be approved for a loan, or attempts to forge information when applying for a loan.
Bank Fraud Punishment
As with many cases of fraud, it's worth noting that issues of bank fraud can be complicated when it comes to penalties and punishments. The severity of the circumstances at play, as well as the history of the person involved can play a part in determining how severe any given penalty might be.
It's also important to note that the punishment you receive for a conviction of bank fraud, may depend on whether or not your particular crime is classed as a state or federal offense. In most cases, bank fraud will be defined as a federal crime, because of the fact that banks are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In very serious cases, this fine may also be accompanied by a potential prison sentence of up to thirty years.
In Massachusetts, the penalties are as follows:
- For bank officers and employees who commit fraud - imprisonment in a state prison for not more than 15 years, or a fine of not more than $2000 plus jail time for not more than 2.5 years.
- For fraudulent bank transactions - punishment would be based on the offense being considered as larceny
Bank Fraud Defenses
- One common defense used in cases of bank fraud is the defense of mental instability or defect. In other words, the lawyer will suggest that you, as a defendant did not have the mental capacity required in properly understanding your actions.
- Another common defense may be lack of intent, and this occurs in cases wherein the lawyer attempts to prove that the actions taken were not done with any intent to defraud someone. Importantly however, lack of intent might not completely lead to the charges against you being dropped in most cases. Rather, the more appropriate solution for most courts will be to reduce the penalties that they levy against you.
- Finally, one last form of defense that may be used in your case is the defense that comes from a lack of reasonable evidence proving your involvement in the crime. There needs to be a reasonable amount of proof present that indicates not only that bank fraud was committed, but you were responsible for the fraud. If such evidence cannot be produced before a case proceeds to court, the chances are that your particular circumstances will not lead to a trial.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged
Just as with other criminal charges, it's important to get help with your case as soon as possible. Seek legal advice for your particular case as soon as possible.