Los Angeles Real Estate Fraud Defense Attorneys
Being accused of any crime is serious, and real estate fraud is no exception. Given the extreme fallout of the real estate bubble bursting in 2008, the government is still trying to catch up with the level of fraud that bloomed as a result. Given this, prosecutors are intent on making examples of those charged with these offenses in Los Angeles. You may find yourself facing charges before you even know you were being investigated.
Alarmingly, real estate fraud can be charged as a federal crime. Federal investigators and prosecutors with tremendous resources at their disposal may get involved in these cases and often come down far harsher on convicted criminals than the state government does. In other words, a conviction can have a devastating impact on the rest of a person’s life.
If you or a loved one has been charged with real estate fraud, or you believe you are being investigated, you need an experienced Los Angeles real estate fraud defense attorney to represent you. Call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 to discuss your case in a free consultation as soon as possible. A conviction of felony real estate fraud could completely destroy your professional and personal life.
Real estate fraud is a general term defined under California Penal Code Section 487 that covers any kind of criminal misconduct, theft, or fraud relating to real estate, as in owned land. There are a lot of crimes that fall under real estate fraud, and each one involves specific actions and criminal acts. Some of the more common kinds of real estate fraud include:
- Mortgage fraud
- Rent skimming
- Foreclosure fraud
- Elder fraud
There are many different actions that can be viewed as real estate fraud. This can include filing paperwork that is suspected of being forged or that contains deceptive information, as well as misrepresenting information about the value of real estate in a transaction. Some forms of real estate fraud can be so subtle that a person might commit them without even realizing it.
That is why, in the majority of real estate fraud cases, the prosecution must prove there was intent by the defendant to defraud someone. Proving this intent is often the cornerstone of their argument, and attacking that point is one of the best ways to defend against such a charge. Without intent, you made a simple mistake, perhaps by accidentally filling out a form incorrectly, or by mistakenly not notifying the proper people of your intentions. Either way, it is an easy mistake to make, and no one should be sent to jail over fraud they didn’t intend to commit.
Real estate fraud can escalate beyond a lot of other white-collar offenses when federal charges are filed. There is a good chance that the lender involved in your case was backed or insured through a federal agency. When the lender is allegedly defrauded, the federal government is defrauded, which is why a seemingly simple case, perhaps started by an innocent mistake, can suddenly become a federal offense.
Penalties for a federal conviction can include decades in prison, hundreds to thousands to millions of dollars in fines, and massive criminal restitution demands. Private individuals who show they were affected by supposed real estate fraud can also file civil lawsuits against a defendant. These can result in even more financial penalties for someone accused of fraud.
Real estate fraud may be charged as a local or state crime. On top of that, depending on the details of the case – usually the monetary value of defrauded assets or whether it was a repeat offense – real estate fraud can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, meaning it is considered a “wobbler.” Penalties for felonies are more severe than misdemeanors, which is why a knowledgeable lawyer will not only fight the charges against you but also work to have them reduced.
Penalties for a misdemeanor real estate fraud conviction can include:
- Up to a year in county jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
On the other hand, if you are charged with felony real estate fraud you may be facing:
- Between 16 months and three years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
It isn’t hard to see that a misdemeanor charge is far more lenient than a felony charge. However, what you may not realize is that felons can lose certain rights. Losing these rights can severely impact your ability to live a normal life once you are released from prison. Sadly, in America, “serving your time” doesn’t mean you won’t continue to be punished. Each state has different regulations on what rights felons lose. In California, being convicted of a felony will result in:
- A loss of voting rights while in prison or on parole
- A lifetime ban from owning any firearm
- Entering certain countries and traveling abroad
- A loss of employment opportunities via background checks
- Barring from public houses and other services
- A slashing of parental rights
Losing any of these rights is terrible, though perhaps the worst one is losing the legal right to parent your child. During your stay in prison, full custody will have to be granted to someone, whether it be your spouse, your parents, a sibling, or a foster parent. Upon your release, it is possible that custody will not be returned to you. In some cases, the courts may elect to not even grant you visitation. Nothing is more devastating than losing your child. That is why avoiding a felony conviction is paramount, and the only way to do that is through the proper defense.
Finding the right defense for your case will be no easy task. You will need an attorney who can perform an in-depth investigation into the facts around your arrest, the evidence that the prosecution has on you, as well as any possible counter-evidence that could be utilized on your behalf. That process is a lengthy one. However, the prosecution started building their case against you the minute you are arrested, likely even before, so you need to start building your defense as soon as possible. In such cases, there are a few defenses we often use, including:
You had proper consent: A key component of a real estate fraud case is whether or not the property owner consented to you filing paperwork for them or otherwise representing them and their property. The owner may be lying about the given consent or may have forgotten about it, which can happen with elderly people. If you can show that consent was given, then a charge of fraud simply wouldn’t stick.
You lacked intent: As we mentioned above, the prosecution will be required to prove that you had the intent to commit fraud. If they are unable to properly prove that, then their case wouldn’t hold water. It is very easy to accidentally break the law simply by filling out a confusing form incorrectly. That should never be a criminal offense.
You are being falsely accused: People can be cruel or spiteful, and sometimes you may be facing allegations of criminal activity that you never committed. It is possible someone wants to hurt your reputation, or even that your accuser was the one acting fraudulently and is trying to escape conviction by putting the blame on you. In such a case, you need proper evidence that shows you didn’t commit the alleged crime.
Of course, going up against the prosecution isn’t as easy as telling the judge and jury you aren’t guilty. You need an attorney who can put in the hours necessary to beat the charges and get you back home where you belong. Sadly, while the court will provide a lawyer for you, public defenders rarely have the time that these kinds of cases require. Instead of working with someone who may not even be able to fully read over your case file, you need to contact one of the best law firms in Los Angeles.
No matter what your situation is, you need to protect yourself. If you have been officially charged with real estate fraud, or you believe you are being investigated, you need an experienced Los Angeles federal crime lawyer on your side. Call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 to make sure your rights are protected.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.