Bank fraud is a serious offense that has become more pervasive in Texas with the advent of the internet and advances in financial technology. Because fraud results in significant losses in the banking industry each year, bank fraud is aggressively prosecuted, and a conviction carries harsh penalties. If you are facing bank fraud charges, turn to Benjamin Law Firm.
As a premier criminal defense practice serving clients in the states of Texas, we are highly experienced in defending white collar crimes. These cases and allegations can start as civil, embezzlement, misappropriation, or theft claims. Founding attorney Brock Benjamin is a former prosecutor and is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which makes him uniquely qualified to handle your bank fraud charges.
Bank fraud investigations often involve the collaborative efforts of financial institutions and state and federal authorities, which puts you at a disadvantage. It takes a highly experienced bank fraud attorney to level the playing field and make sure that your rights are protected. When your freedom and your future are at stake, you need the powerful representation Benjamin Law Firm provides. Please contact our office today to set up a consultation.
What is Bank Fraud?
Bank fraud is a violation of both federal and Texas law. Under federal law (19 U.S. Code§ 1344), bank fraud occurs when a person knowingly uses, or attempt to use a scheme, to:
- Defraud a financial institution
- Obtain money, funds, or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of a bank or other financial institution
The term “financial institution” includes a federally insured bank, credit union, mortgage lending business or other depository institution. In other words, bank fraud involves using deception to take assets from one of the aforementioned entities, regardless of whether the assets belong to the financial institution or are held for the benefit of others. Finally, charges can be brought against a person, firm, partnership, corporation, or association.
Bank Fraud In Texas Often Involves Forgery
Bank fraud is also prosecuted under Chapter 32 of the Texas Penal Code, which may involve:
- Stealing or receiving stolen checks
- Credit card fraud
- Making false statements to obtain property, credit or services
Under federal law, bank fraud is considered a felony while bank fraud in Texas may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. Regardless of whether you are facing state or federal bank fraud charges, it is crucial to have an experienced white collar crimes attorney in your corner.
As a former prosecutor, Brock Benjamin is well-aware of the tactics that the government uses to investigate and enforce bank fraud crimes. Mr. Benjamin leverages this insight to design innovative defense strategies against all types of bank fraud charges. Because state and federal prosecutors have a head start conducting investigations and gathering evidence against bank fraud suspects, it is critically important to seek legal counsel as soon as charges against you are filed. Further, you must realize that there can be parallel civil and criminal investigations. Cooperating or challenging the civil investigation, claim or suit can have consequences in the criminal suit which usually develops slower.
When you become our client, we will carefully weigh the evidence against you, explore all your options, and choose the best line of defense. We have a well-deserved reputation as aggressive trial lawyers and a proven history of success trying bank fraud cases in state and federal court. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can start working on your case.
What Are the Penalties for Bank Fraud in Texas?
Under Texas law, bank fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on factors such as the type of offense, the amount of money involved, and whether the victim was elderly.
A conviction for a state jail felony for forgery, for example, could result in 2 years in jail and fines up to $10,000. A conviction for a third-degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, however, while a misdemeanor charge could result in up to 1 year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.
At the federal level, conviction for bank fraud can result in substantial penalties, including a prison sentence of up to 30 years, fines of up to $1 million, and restitution, which involves repaying the defrauded victim.
In addition, a conviction for bank fraud can have collateral consequences. If you are convicted of a felony, you may forfeit some of your civil rights, such as your right to vote. Being convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor also means that you will have a permanent criminal record, which can interfere with employment opportunities and cause lasting damage to your reputation.
Given the serious consequences of a bank fraud conviction, it is crucial to have aggressive representation. When you consult with Benjamin Law Firm, we will work tirelessly to protect your freedom and your future.
Liability for Financial Institution Employees
Employees of banks and financial institutions, including officers, directors and agents, are held to a higher standard than the general public and can face bank fraud charges for a wide range of offenses, including:
- Disclosing bank entries, reports, and transactions – Disclosing information from bank reports, or making a false entry into a bank report with the intent to defraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1,000,000.
- Disclosure of confidential information – Publishing, divulging or disclosing any confidential information in the course of employment with a bank is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
- Disclosure of information in a bank examination report – Disclosing information obtained from a bank examination report is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and fines of up to $1,000,000.
In addition to the fines and penalties, a conviction for bank fraud will likely result in an employee of a financial institution being barred from the industry.
Types of Bank Fraud in Texas
Bank fraud involved all types of unlawful activities, such as:
- Accounting fraud is the intentional manipulation of financial statements that may involve overstating revenue or misstating assets and liabilities. This type of bank fraud may be committed by an employee, an accountant or the bank.
- Bank impersonation involves attempting to obtain money from a bank’s depositors by falsely pretending to be a bank, often through a phishing scam through email or the internet.
- Check fraud may involve writing checks against insufficient funds (check kiting), stealing or receiving stolen checks, forging a person’s signature or creating a false check.
- Credit card fraud involves the unauthorized use of a credit card or debit card, or personal credit information to make purchases, withdraw funds, or obtain unlawful financial gains to avoid payment.
- Embezzlement occurs when a bank employee, officer or executive steals or attempts to steal bank assets by misappropriating funds, underreporting assets, or altering balance sheets and expense reports.
- Loan fraud involves submitting false documents to a bank to secure a mortgage, personal loan, business loan or some other from credit. This can include Payment Protection Plan (PPP) loans or economic disaster loans that have been given out recently during COVID-19 pandemic.
- Forgery involves making, altering or using a false document to defraud a bank. Examples include signing another person’s name to a check, altering the amount on a check without permission, creating a fake deed or real estate document, and making false entries in books and records.
- Money laundering is a financial transaction scheme in which funds obtained from unlawful activities are transferred into a bank, while attempting to conceal the identity, source and destination of the illegally obtained money.
- Mortgage fraud involves using false information or forged documents (e.g. W-2s, tax returns, financial statements to defraud a lending institution.
- Mail fraud involves using the mail or another delivery service to engage in bank fraud. As an example, mailing a false appraisal or other documentation to secure a loan from a bank constitutes mail fraud.
- Wire fraud may involve unlawfully transferring funds electronically or using internet schemes (e.g. phishing) to obtain personal information to defraud a financial institution.
Bank Fraud and Identity Theft
Bank fraud often goes hand-in-hand with identity theft, which occurs when a party uses another individual’s personal identifying information, without permission to defraud a financial institution. In Texas, identity theft can be charged as a state jail felony, or felony of the third, second or first degree, depending on the circumstances. If the defendant has a prior felony conviction or the victim was an elderly person, the penalties may be increased.
Ultimately, these charges should be taken very seriously. If you have been accused of bank fraud, it is crucial to have the advice and guidance of the experienced white collar crimes attorneys at Benjamin Law Firm. Although prosecutors have an unfair advantage over defendants, we know how to fight back. Our legal team will identify and exploit weakness in the government’s case, challenge any and all evidence, and mount an aggressive defense.
Other Bank Fraud-Related Crimes
Federal bank fraud charges are often accompanied by charges for other federal financial crimes such as:
- Attempt and conspiracy to commit fraud – Attempting or conspiring to commit bank fraud is treated the same way as committing the offense in terms of fines and penalties, regardless of whether the attempt was successful.
- Laundering of monetary instruments – Knowingly conducting or attempting to conduct a financial transaction with the proceeds of unlawful activity and concealing the source of those funds is known as money laundering. A conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or two times the value of the funds involved.
- Engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from unlawful activity — Engaging or attempting to engage in a transaction with money or property derived from unlawful activity is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
- Transportation of stolen goods or money used in counterfeiting — Knowingly transporting, transmitting or transferring any funds or fraudulent documents (e.g. fake checks) that were produced by unlawful activity is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
Because federal prosecutors look to “stack” such charges in bank fraud cases to improve their chances of securing a conviction, it takes a skilled white collar crimes defense attorney to protect your rights. When you work with Benjamin Law Firm, you can rest assured we will vigorously defend you against the government’s tactics.
Bank Fraud Investigations in the State of Texas
Investigating bank fraud at the federal level involves a variety of federal agencies, often working in conjunction with the financial institutions and bank employees. Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), for example, banks are required to promptly investigate cases of credit card and debit card fraud and notify the cardholder of the results of the investigation.
In addition, banks have an obligation to notify the appropriate authorities of any instances of alleged fraud. Federal agencies that are typically involved in enforcing these crimes include:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)
- Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI)
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Department of Treasury (DOT)
- Department of Defense (DOD)
- Government Accountability Office (GAO)
- National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
- Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC)
If you are being investigated for bank fraud in Texas, you should never go up against the federal government on your own. Instead, turn to the dedicated white collar crimes defense attorneys at Benjamin Law Firm. We have the skills and determination to go up against federal prosecutors and will work tirelessly to protect your rights.
Possible Defenses Against Bank Fraud In Texas
At Benjamin Law Firm, we have the knowledge and experience to raise any and all defenses against bank fraud, including:
- Lack of Intent — Generally, in many fraud cases the government must be able to show that the defendant intended to commit fraud. This does not apply to bank fraud, however, due to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held the applicable federal law does not require the government to prove intent to gain a bank fraud conviction (Shaw v. United States).
- Lack of Evidence — Because bank fraud cases typically involve vast amounts of financial data, it may be possible to point out flaws in the government’s case. We will also ascertain whether the government misused its broad surveillance powers or violated your rights; if it did overstep, we will move to have any evidence suppressed.
- Duress — In rare circumstances, bank fraud may occur under duress, which may involve threats of physical or financial harm against you or a loved one.
Ultimately, successfully defense against bank fraud charges requires extensive preparation and exceptional courtroom skills. At Benjamin Law Firm, we provide a powerful combination of financial acumen, legal knowledge, and aggressive representation. Our objective is to win an acquittal, have the case against you dismissed, or seek alternative sentencing. Above all, we will always put your best interests first and never stop fighting for you.
How Benjamin Law Firm Can Help
Although many attorneys are capable of handling state-level forgery and bank fraud cases, defending federal crimes and accompanying civil claims is more challenging. The federal government has vast financial resources and often collects mountains of evidence in cases even before charges are filed. You need a white collar crimes attorney with the experience and determination to go up against federal prosecutors.
At Benjamin Law Firm, we are well-versed in the federal rules of criminal procedure and have a proven history of achieving successful outcomes in federal bank fraud cases. When you become our client, we will work to:
- Conduct a through investigation
- Handle all court filings
- Challenge the evidence against you
- Identify weaknesses and errors in the government’s case
- File motions to suppress evidence
- Present evidence of your innocence
- Vigorously defend you at trial
- Enter into plea negotiations when necessary
While you may not have any experience dealing with the criminal justice system, you can rest assured that we will guide you through the process. We encourage your participation in your case and are readily available to respond to your questions and concerns. While we are committed to winning an acquittal, we may seek to have the charges and penalties reduced, depending on the facts of your case. When you come to Benjamin Law Firm, we will provide you with trustworthy advice and objective insights so that you can make the best decisions about your future.
Contact Our Experienced Texas Bank Fraud Attorneys
If you have been charged with bank fraud, you face an uncertain future. In addition to losing your freedom, the additional fines and penalties can jeopardize your finances. The lasting damage to your reputation can also interfere with employment opportunities, particularly if you work in the banking or financial services sectors.
When your freedom, your livelihood, and future are hanging in the balance, it takes a highly experienced bank fraud attorney to protect your rights.
As a premier criminal defense practice serving clients in Texas, Benjamin Law Firm is the experienced choice to handle white collar crime charges . Our legal team has a working knowledge of the applicable bank fraud laws and decades of experience handling federal crimes. We regularly collaborate with a network of financial experts on cases to assess the evidence against you and to provide helpful testimony at trial.
Through the years, we have developed a long-standing relationship with federal prosecutors and government officials who see us as formidable opponents and honest brokers, which can be beneficial if plea negotiations become a factor in your case. Above all, we believe that anyone who has been accused of bank fraud is entitled to the presumption of innocence and aggressive representation. Regardless of the charges you are facing, we will treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve and stand by you every step of the way. Reach out to our office today to speak with our experienced bank fraud attorneys.
Conveniently located in El Paso, Benjamin Law Firm regularly handles white collar crimes, including state and federal bank fraud charges, throughout the state of Texas.