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Organized Scheme to Defraud

Tallahassee white collar lawyer

One of the most prosecuted fraud crimes in Florida is organized fraud, also known as scheme to defraud. This offense allows prosecutors to aggregate a series of small fraudulent acts into one larger crime. The crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on whether property was obtained through the fraudulent acts, and if so, the value of that property obtained.

Florida law highlights that there are two separate offenses that can be charged separately or together for the organization of fraud, and the communication with another person to commit fraud. Whether you were accused of one or both crimes, finding the right defense attorney will be an extremely important part of your case. If the case goes to trial and results in a conviction, there are profound consequences you may be faced with.

A Florida defense attorney experienced in white collar crimes can guide you through this challenging time and help clear your name.

Tallahassee Organized Scheme to Defraud Defense Attorney

Have you recently been charged with a fraud crime in Florida? If so, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law. Our firm represents clients charged with theft and financial crimes throughout Leon County, Tallahassee, and the surrounding areas of Northern Florida. Call our office today at (850) 681-7777 to discuss your case during a free consultation.

Information About Organized Scheme to Defraud Charges in Florida

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Definitions Under the Communications Fraud Act

The Florida Communications Fraud Act intends to prevent the use of communications technology in furtherance of schemes to defraud by consolidating former statutes and providing the following related definitions:

To communicate means to either transmit or transfer, or to cause another person to transmit or transfer any signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligences of any nature. This can occur in whole, or in part by mail, wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo optical system.

To obtain means to deprive another person, whether temporarily or permanently, of their right to property or a benefit therefrom, or to appropriate the property to one’s own use or the use of another person that is also not entitled to.

Property refers to anything of value, which can include:

  • Real property, including things growing on, affixed to, or found in land;
  • Tangible or intangible personal property, including rights, privileges, interests, and claims; and

Value refers to the determined market value of the property at the time of the alleged offense, or, if such value cannot be determined, then the cost of replacement of the property within reasonable time after the offense.

Determining Value in Fraud Cases

Per Florida Statute Section 817.034(3)(e), value can be determined in any of the following ways:

  1. The market value of the property at the time and place of the offense, or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.
  2. The value of a written instrument that does not have a readily ascertainable market value.
  3. The value of a trade secret that does not have a readily ascertainable market value is any reasonable value representing the damage to the owner, suffered by reason of losing an advantage over those who do not know of or use the trade secret.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm if you have any questions or would like to receive a free consultation to discuss your case details.

Organized Fraud vs Communications Fraud

There are two offenses under the Florida Communications Fraud Act, codified under Statute Section 817.034: organized fraud and communications fraud.

Organized fraud is the criminal charge a person would face for engaging in a scheme to defraud and obtaining property through such scheme.

Communications fraud is the criminal charge a person would face for engaging in a scheme to defraud and, in furtherance of that scheme, communicates with any person with the intent to obtain property from that person.

In other words, a person accused of obtaining property or value through a scheme to defraud can be charged with organized fraud. A person accused of communication with the intent to defraud another person or entity can be charged with communications fraud.

Provided by the Florida Criminal Jury Instructions, the State must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person under the Organized Fraud statute:

  1. The defendant engaged in a systematic, ongoing course of conduct;
  2. The defendant intended to defraud one or more persons, or intended to obtain property from one or more persons; and
  3. The act was committed by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.

Contact the office of Pumphrey Law Firm if you have any questions regarding the specific fraud charge you are facing.

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Penalties for Fraudulent Acts in Florida

In fraud cases, the specific penalties will be based on the alleged value of property gained through such an offense. It’s important to note that the value of separate properties obtained in one scheme to defraud, whether from the same person or from several persons, is aggregated (or combined) when determining the grade each offense.

Florida’s Statute § 817.034(4)(a) provides the following penalties for each degree of organized fraud, based on the aggregated value of alleged property gained:

  • Property obtained has an aggregated value less than $20,000, the offense is a third-degree felony;
  • Property obtained has an aggregated value of $20,000 or more, but less than $50,000, the offense is a second-degree felony; or
  • Property obtained has an aggregated value of $50,000 or more, the offense is a first-degree felony.

Provided under Florida Statute Section 817.034(4)(b), the following lists the penalties for each degree of communications fraud, based on the aggregated value of alleged property gained:

  1. Property obtained or endeavored to be obtained by the communication has an aggregated value less than $300, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor; or
  2. Property obtained or endeavored to be obtained by the communication has an aggregated value of $300 or more, the offense is a third-degree felony.

Important: Florida law states that a defendant can face separate judgements and sentences for both organized fraud and communications fraud if such offenses involve the same scheme to defraud.

The following provides the sentencing guideline for each level of offense:

  • First-degree misdemeanor: Conviction carries up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.
  • Third-degree felony: Conviction carries up to $5,000 in fines and up to five (5) years in prison.
  • Second-degree felony: Conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
  • First-degree felony: Conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.

If you are facing allegations of fraud or a scheme to defraud, finding legal guidance is imperative. Consider an experienced white collar crime defense attorney at your earliest convenience.

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Defenses to Organized and Communications Fraud

Facing a crime such as organized fraud can be a scary experience. The best way to fight against a conviction is by hiring a defense attorney who can help determine a strong defense strategy including, but not limited to:

  • Lack of intent – If the defendant lacked the intent to defraud another person, and the State cannot prove the element of intent, this could be a valid defense.
  • Value disputes – The penalties for both organized fraud and communications fraud are based on the value of the property obtained or endeavored to be obtained through the fraud. Disputes over the value of the property could help combat the charges.

A Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer with Pumphrey Law can review your case details in a free consultation to determine what possible defenses can be used to help you avoid criminal conviction.

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Finding an Attorney for Organized Fraud in Leon County

If you have been charged with theft or organized scheme to defraud, contact an aggressive criminal defense attorney at Pumphrey Law. Fraud cases can be complex, especially to an individual who is not familiar with the wide range of Fraud laws in Florida. You will want an attorney on your side who is knowledgeable and prepared to fight for you. When you hire Pumphrey Law Firm to represent your case, it is our goal to have your charges lessened or dismissed altogether. 

Call our office today at (850) 681-7777 to discuss your fraud case in Tallahassee, Leon County, or the surrounding areas in North Florida. We can begin your defense today. Schedule a free consultation with a lawyer now.


Page Updated March 6, 2024

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