Organized Fraud - Florida Statute 817.034

Organized Fraud

The Florida Legislature created this statute to give law enforcement the ability to prosecute individuals who use technology to communicate to victims while concealing their identities so they can defraud victims. This statute prohibits using email, phone, text, radio, mail, etc. to commit a scheme to defraud by communicating to any person with intent to obtain property. This statute also prohibits engaging in a scheme to defraud to obtain property where communication is not involved.

This statute covers a broad range of schemes which are not immediately apparent.

Examples:

  • A person defrauds the government by filing multiple fraudulent tax returns of prisoners to receive tax refunds. See State v. Joseph.
  • A person claiming to be a general contractor and entering into a contract to perform construction work. See State v. Summerlot.
  • A person deceptively claiming they are selling “Reynolds” windows when in reality they are “Caradon Better Bilt” windows made by Reynolds Building Products. See Pizzo v. State.
  • Telemarketers calling up and trying to get the person to pay for some scheme over the phone.

While the statute prohibits two crimes of engaging in a scheme to defraud to obtain property, one using communication and the other without communication, the state does not have to prove that the defendant did communicate but only at a minimum that he engaged in a scheme to defraud to obtain property. See State v. Summerlot.

What the State Prosecutor Has to Prove to Convict You of Organized Fraud

The state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) You were engaged in a scheme to defraud; and

(2) From the scheme, you obtained property.

"Scheme to Defraud" means a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud one or more persons, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.

"Obtain" means to temporarily or permanently deprive any person of the right to property or a benefit therefrom, or to appropriate the property to one's own use or to the use of any other person not entitled to it.

What the State Prosecutor Has to Prove to Convict You of Communicating With Intent to Defraud

The state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) You communicated with a person to further a scheme to defraud; and

(2) From the scheme, you obtained property.

Punishment for Organized Fraud

Organized fraud is ranked as level 3 under the Florida Punishment Code. The punishment is different based upon the value of the property defrauded. Value is calculated as the market value or if that cannot be figured out, then replacement value. If the a value of the property obtained from the fraud was below $20,000, the crime is a third-degree felony which is punishable up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

If the value is $20,000 and above but below $50,000, it is a second-degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If the value is $50,000 or above, it is a first-degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Grand theft is also a lesser included offense to this crime. If the prosecutor cannot prove an ongoing scheme to defraud, then the prosecutor can still prosecute you for grand theft.

Punishment for Communicating with Intent to Defraud

Communicating with intent to defraud is ranked level 3 under Florida’s Punishment Code. If the person was communicating with intent to receive property below $300 in value, the individual committed a first-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 365 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

If the person was communicating with intent to receive property $300 or above in value, the individual committed a third-degree felony punishable up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Contact The Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A.

The crime of organized fraud is a serious crime which can bring serious consequences if there is a conviction. Call today to schedule an appointment for a free consultation at one of our offices. We need to hear your story. Our attorneys can explain to you your defenses and options. We will present your defenses to the prosecutor to persuade them to drop the case. If needed, we can proceed on and file a motion to dismiss to try and get your case dismissed. If that is not successful, we can even go to trial and argue your case to the jury. Know that we will fight for you and we are not afraid of aggressively defending your case.

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