Maryland Fraud Lawyer
Depending on the severity and specific nature of the case, charges of fraud in Maryland are punishable by either a misdemeanor or felony. While a felony is the more serious of the two by a wide margin, a misdemeanor conviction can also have severe implications, including years of jail time and extensive fines that could be unaffordable, especially in the immediate aftermath of your trial. In many cases, whether a crime of fraud is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony in Maryland depends on the value of any goods or services stolen or otherwise misappropriated through fraudulent activity.
Our fraud defense attorneys in Maryland have years of experience fighting charges of fraud for clients, using deep knowledge of Maryland’s criminal codes, allowable defenses and legal precedents. With the help of a skilled Maryland fraud lawyer, you’ll have the best possible chance of receiving a positive outcome to your trial.
Bad Check Fraud in Maryland
Laws pertaining to bad checks are covered by Title 8, Subtitle 1 of the Maryland criminal code. According to code § 8-103, it is illegal to issue a check knowing there are insufficient funds to clear it. Specifically, this makes it illegal to issue a check to obtain services or property if all of the following are true:
- You know you have insufficient funds to cover the issued check and any other outstanding checks
- You believe that payment for the check will be refused when the recipient presents it to a bank
- Payment for the check is indeed refused when the recipient presents it to a bank
Part (b) of this code makes it illegal to issue a check if you intend to have the payment stopped before the recipient cashes the check. Further, part (c) of this same code makes it illegal to pass a check to a third party intending the payment to be refused. Finally, this code prohibits individuals from passing a check while knowing that the drawer has insufficient funds, or that the payment has already been stopped.
If you’re found guilty of this law, the penalties will depend on the value of the services or property you obtained by issuing the bad check, as per Maryland criminal code § 8-106. If the value of the property is $500 or greater, the penalty is a felony, along with up to 15 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $1,000. The penalty is the same whether the goods or services were obtained using one bad check or several, so long as the checks cumulatively amount to at least $500 and were passed to a single individual within a single 30-day period.
If the total value of the property or services obtained is less than $500, the penalty is a misdemeanor, along with up to 18 months in jail and no more than $100 in fines. If the value of the goods or services is below $100, the penalty is also a misdemeanor, plus up to 90 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $500.
In addition to these penalties, individuals found guilty of check fraud must pay restitution to any individual with a property interest in the goods or services, plus a fee of up to $35 for each bad check.
Credit Card Fraud in Maryland
In Maryland, crimes of credit card fraud are covered by Title 8, Subtitle 2 of the criminal law code. According to code § 8-203, it is illegal to make a false statement about your identity in order to obtain a credit card when you know that the statement is false and you intend the statement to be relied upon. The penalty for this crime is a misdemeanor, as well as up to 18 months in jail and a fine not to exceed $500.
Criminal code § 8-204 pertains to stealing credit cards. According to this code, it is illegal to take a credit card from another person, and equally illegal to obtain a credit card from another with the intent to sell it. Further, part (b) of this code prohibits individuals from receiving a credit card when they know the card was delivered to the wrong address or lost. Part (c) of this code also makes it illegal to sell a credit card unless you are the issuer, or buy a credit card from any individual other than the issuer. Finally, part (d) makes it illegal to receive a credit card when you know it was obtained via a violation of this code.
The penalty for credit card theft, constituted by any of the actions in the above paragraph, is a misdemeanor, up to 18 months in jail, and up to $500 in fines.
According to Maryland criminal code § 8-205, it is illegal to falsely make or emboss a credit card, just as it is equally illegal to possess or transfer a falsely made or embossed device purporting to be a credit card. In addition, part (c) of this code prohibits individuals other than the cardholder from signing a credit card with the intention of committing fraud. The penalty for any violation of code §8-205 is a felony, as well as up to 15 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $1,000.
According to criminal code § 8-206, it is illegal to use a counterfeit credit card to obtain good, services, money or anything else of value. This law only applies if you know that the credit card is counterfeit. The penalty for this crime depends on the value of the goods or services obtained using the counterfeit credit card. If the value is less than $100, the penalty is a misdemeanor, up to 90 days incarceration and up to $500 in fines. If the value is less than $500, the penalty is a misdemeanor, up to 18 months in jail and up to $500 in fines. If the value exceeds $500, the penalty is a felony, plus up to $1,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison.
Finally, criminal code § 8-210 makes it illegal to publish the number or code on a telephone credit card with the intention of fraudulently avoiding a toll charge. This code defines publishing as communicating information to at least one individual in writing or orally regardless of the means of communication. The penalty for this crime is a misdemeanor, plus up to 12 months in jail and no more than $500 in fines.
Identity Fraud Crimes in Maryland
Assuming the identity of another person is illegal in Maryland as per state criminal code § 8-301. Specifically, this code makes it illegal to willfully and knowingly assume another person’s identity with the intention of avoiding paying a debt, obtaining anything of value, or avoiding apprehension or prosecution for a criminal violation. Further, part (b) of this code makes it illegal to obtain any personal identifying information from another individual without their consent with the intent of defrauding them.
The penalty for this crime depends on the value of any goods or services obtained illegally using the false identity. If the value exceeds $500, the penalty is a felony, plus up to $25,000 in fines and a prison term not to exceed 15 years. If the value is less than $500, the penalty is a misdemeanor plus up to 18 months in jail and a fine of no more than $5,000. However, any violation of this code in which the court can prove that your intention was to distribute another individual’s personal identifying information is punishable by a felony, as well as up to 15 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. If your intention is instead to avoid identification, apprehension or prosecution for a crime, the penalty is a misdemeanor, up to 18 months incarceration and $5,000 in fines.
In addition to any fines imposed, you may also be required to pay restitution to the victim of the crime, including the value of the goods or services obtained, attorney’s fees, and costs incurred clearing the victim’s credit rating and credit history.
Alleged crimes of identity fraud are often subject to numerous legal complications, with some cases resulting from misunderstandings, disputes among family members, and accidental violations. One of our experienced fraud lawyers in Maryland can lend clarity to your case and draw on proven defenses in order to maximize your chance of receiving a favorable verdict.
Pyramid Scheme Fraud in Maryland
Maryland criminal code § 8-404 makes it illegal to promote, advertise, establish or operate a pyramid promotional scheme, more commonly known as a pyramid scheme. The State defines a pyramid promotional scheme as any operation or plan in which a participant must pay a fee in order to receive compensation by introducing other individuals into the operation or plan. In a legitimate business venture, funds are generated through the sale of services, goods and other things of value, not by recruiting others to join the same scheme.
A few scenarios that are sometimes thought of as pyramid schemes even though they are legal include the following:
- An operation in which participants pay for services and/or goods in order to re-sell those items to individuals who are not involved in the operation, and who do not become enrolled in the operation by making a purchase
- An operation that tasks its participants with spending time or effort — but not money — in order to recruit more participants or make sales
- An operation in which participants receive a rebate or discount by purchasing services or goods from a cooperative buying group or association.
A pyramid promotional scheme is still considered as such even if the organization limits the eligibility or number of participants who may opt in. In addition, it is not a valid defense to state that participants received additional property (such as “free” gifts) beyond the right to compensation as a participant in the plan upon paying a fee to the pyramid scheme.
The penalty for operating, advertising, establishing or promoting a pyramid promotional scheme is a misdemeanor, as well as up to 1 year in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Maryland Fraud Statistics
Maryland has the third-highest rate of credit card fraud in the nation, with 393.6 reported cases per 100,000 citizens per year. Nevada and Colorado are the only two states in the nation with higher rates of reported credit card fraud, while some of the states least prone to credit card fraud include Mississippi, Arkansas and the Dakotas.
Nationally, about half of credit card fraud victims are between the ages of 40 and 59. About 48% of all instances of credit card fraud originate through email, while just 10% are initiated over the phone. About 37% of credit card fraud cases involve counterfeit credit cards; 23% involve lost or stolen cards; 10% involve giving credit information to a fraudulent telemarketer; 7% involve mail fraud; and 4% involve identity theft. Overall, about 40% of all financial fraud activities relate to credit cards.
If you’ve been accused of credit card fraud, bad check fraud, identity theft or any other form of fraud, you owe it yourself — and your future — to seek the legal assistance of one of our experienced Maryland fraud attorneys.