Fraud is one of the most common, most costly crimes committed in America today. Fraud is defined as a deliberate deception that is designed to enrich the perpetrator, whether financially or personally. It differs from thefts such as larceny, burglary or robbery in that it has to do with misrepresentation rather than a physical act. For an act to be categorized as a fraud, there are four major factors that must be present. They are:
- Misrepresentation of a fact.
- The perpetrator must know that the information being presented is false at the time that it is being presented.
- The perpetrator provided the information with the intention that it would be trusted by the victim the fraud was committed against.
- The victim believed the misrepresentation and was harmed as a result, through some kind of loss.
Fraud can be categorized as either civil or criminal, and the difference lies in how it is prosecuted and the level of proof that is required. For a fraud to reach a criminal level and be prosecuted by the state or federal government, it must be able to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The penalties for being found guilt of a criminal fraud can include fines and jail time. Civil fraud can be prosecuted by a personal attorney and the burden of proof is much lower – a jury does not have to be unanimous in order for a civil fraud case to be won. The end result of prosecuting a successful civil fraud case is to reimburse the victim of the crime for the losses that they have incurred.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of a fraud and want to know whether or not you have grounds to file a civil fraud lawsuit, the first thing that you need to determine is whether all of the points listed above are present. Did the person make a false representation to you, knowing full well that what they were saying was a misrepresentation of fact? Can you prove that they intended for you to rely upon them telling the truth? Was it reasonable for you to believe it, and were you harmed as a result of your belief?
There are a lot of variables involved in pursuing a fraud case, and there are many different degrees of guilt. Even if not all of the elements listed above are present, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit for negligent misrepresentation, concealment, or non-disclosure. In these situations you may be able to prove that rather than misrepresenting a fact, fraud occurred through a seller not revealing a material fact that would have kept you from making a purchase.
If you believe that somebody has cheated you intentionally and you have suffered a loss as a result, it is in your best interest to seek the guidance of a qualified civil fraud attorney to review your options. There is a statute of limitations for filing a fraud case, so don’t let too much time go by. The attorneys at Bochetto and Lentz have extensive experience in helping clients recover damages lost to fraud.
Read more about Civil Fraud and RICO here: