California Bank Fraud Laws & Charges + Statute of Limitations

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Bank fraud in California is a crime that takes place when people use illegal means to receive assets or money from a bank or similar financial institution. Bank fraud is different to bank robbery because the perpetrator keeps the crime a secret in the hopes that it won’t be noticed. Bank fraud in California can also refer to attempts to obtain money from a bank’s depositors by pretending to be a financial institution or a bank.

Laws and Penalties

Because there are so many different ways in which a person can commit bank fraud in California, there are dozens of potential penalties involved with this kind of crime. The more complex and dangerous bank fraud schemes are, and the more people or institutions that are affected by them, the harsher the penalties will be. Some common types of bank fraud are:

  • Bank impersonation – pretending individually or as a group to be a financial institution, either by setting up a fake website or company to lure people into depositing funds.
  • Forgery – forgery crimes take place when a person alters the check by changing a name or other information, or even altering the amount of the check to put more cash into the pocket of the forger. Forging a signature with the intent to deposit a check or cash a check will also fall into this category.
  • Stolen checks – some fraudsters get jobs that give them access to mail where they can steal checks and open a bank account to deposit those checks into.
  • Fraudulent loans – People who take out loans with the knowledge that they will immediate file for bankruptcy are committing an act of bank fraud. This is the same if a person uses a false identity in order to be approved for a loan, or attempts to forge information on an application.

In California, all types of fraud can be subjected to serious penalties depending on the surrounding circumstances. Usually, the severity of the penalty that you receive for bank fraud will depend on the monetary value obtained, and whether the fraud was committed against a protected class of persons, such as an elderly or disabled individual. It is also important to decide whether the crime is classified as a federal or state offense.

Bank fraud is almost always deemed to be a federal crime because most banks are protected by an entity known as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. This was designed to protect deposits in banks and other financial institutions, and according to these laws and regulations, those who attempt to take part in a plan to defraud a financial institution or bank, or otherwise obtain money and assets that do not belong to them using fraudulent pretenses will face a fine that can reach up to $1,000,000, and possible imprisonment of up to thirty years.

Bank Fraud Defenses

Although bank fraud in California is a very serious crime, there are many defenses that can be used in court when facing these charges. The outcome of your defense will depend largely on the amount of research that is done into your case and the strategies that are employed in representing you. While many banks are motivated to press charges in cases of bank fraud, usually the main aim is to recover missing funds, which means that financial settlements might be able to lead to reduced prison time.
Common defenses might include:

  • Mental disease or defect – A lawyer might indicate that the defendant did not have the mental capacity to be held responsible for his or her actions at the time of the crime.
  • Lack of evidence – there needs to be at least some proof that an act of bank fraud has been committed, otherwise it would be impossible to pursue a successful conviction.
  • Lack of intent – It is also possible to argue that the activities done by an individual were not carried out with the intent to defraud anyone. However, in many circumstances you may find that this doesn’t remove the charge of bank fraud from your record, or the punishments that you may be susceptible to receive. Instead, lack of intent may be able to reduce the sentence or penalty somewhat.

Statute of Limitations

Bank related crimes in California fall under a statute of limitations that lasts for ten years. However, fraud against financial institutions that involves mail and wire fraud may be extended to ten years depending on the effects on a financial institution.

California Bank Fraud Cases