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Fraud in the Age of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The San Francisco Bay Area and the national economy have been severely impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic downturns bring an increased number of prosecutions for fraud. People are often desperate to provide for their families and protect their businesses. In result, people can get caught bending the rules.  Sometimes, completely innocent people get falsely accused of fraud crimes. In the coming months and years, we expect to see a dramatic increase in fraud cases, including:

  • White-collar fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Workers comp fraud
  • Disability fraud
  • Loan fraud
  • Bankruptcy fraud

Additionally, the new Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Programs require borrowers to submit the applications under penalty of perjury. If a person uses false information to submit a loan application, that individual can be prosecuted for fraud. Each year, the SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG) obtains multiple convictions of borrowers and loan agents that have committed fraud in the SBA business loan programs. The Pleasanton fraud lawyers at Mirador Law, PC expect those figures to skyrocket and we are here to help.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers Are Experienced and Skilled in Fighting Fraud Charges

While COVID-19 and the current economic downturn are new, the crime of fraud is not. Our criminal defense lawyers have a long track record of obtaining terrific results for our clients facing fraud charges.

The great recession of 2008 led to an uptick in mortgage fraud cases. Our attorneys successfully handled many of those matters. Fraud cases often involve a meticulous review of documents and require a strong familiarity with state and federal regulations.

How to Identify and Fight Allegations of Fraud in Bankruptcy Proceedings

There will be many people and businesses filing for bankruptcy in the coming months due to coronavirus. Bankruptcy fraud occurs when a filer commits a dishonest act before, or in connection with, a bankruptcy filing. Committing fraud before or during bankruptcy can result in serious consequences. Consequences may include a denial of discharge, a fine or even a criminal conviction.

A huge percentage (approximately 70 percent) of all bankruptcy fraud involves the concealment of assets. The government must answer two questions to prove bankruptcy fraud:

  • Did the defendant misrepresent an important fact? AND
  • Did the defendant intend to deceive, hinder, or delay the court or the creditors?

A creditor that believes a debtor has committed fraud must file a lawsuit (adversary proceeding) in the bankruptcy court. There are two types of creditors, secured and unsecured. Unsecured creditors are people or businesses who are owed money, but there is no collateral for the transaction.

What Should Debtors Do If Accused of Bankruptcy Fraud?

Bankruptcy fraud includes:

  • Perjury
  • Concealment of assets
  • Destruction of records
  • Misrepresenting income
  • Overstating expenses.

A defendant can raise several defenses to fight accusations of bankruptcy fraud. Examples include:

  • Mistake. The defendant can claim that the error was an “accident” and not intentional.
  • Legitimate Purpose. The defendant may state that there was a lawful reason for taking action to protect an asset (i.e., sold an asset for half its value to take advantage of a tax deduction).
  • Withdrawal or Renunciation. The defendant can testify that the error was corrected soon after the debtor discovered the error.

What to Do If Accused of Fraud or Committing a Fraud Crime

People usually find out that they are being investigated for fraud once contacted by law enforcement or another government agent. Sometimes, accusations start out in a civil lawsuit and then the case is referred to law enforcement for prosecution. Typically, a law enforcement officer will start by calling you or knocking on your door. What should you do? Do not make any statements. You have a right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment and should exercise that right. In certain circumstances, what you say can be used against you even if you are not read your Miranda rights.

Do not try to talk your way out of it, even if you have done nothing wrong. Sometimes, even innocent people say the wrong thing that makes them look guilty. Instead, tell the questioner politely but firmly that you will not be making any statements and that you will be getting a lawyer. Then, contact our Pleasanton fraud lawyers immediately for a consultation.

Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Fraud Case? Contact Our Office Today for a Consultation

Being accused of fraud is a stressful experience. Having excellent lawyers can reduce the stress and bring some peace of mind. Our fraud attorneys have a solid reputation in defending these cases. You can speak with one of our skilled fraud lawyers by calling one of our offices in Pleasanton, Oakland or Fremont for a free consultation. You can also fill out our online contact form and we will be in touch with you soon.