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Fraud Laws in Virginia

Fraud is covered in the Code of Virginia, Title 18.2 (Crimes and Offenses Generally), Chapter 6 (Crimes Involving Fraud). There are a large number of fraud-related crimes, and the majority of the crimes are Class 1 misdemeanors. The major and most common fraud-related offenses are outlined below: Bad Checks & Forgery, Identity Theft, and Credit Card Fraud. If you are being charged with fraud in Virginia, you should seek the assistance of a Virginia fraud lawyer.

Bad Checks; Forgery (Sections 18.2-178; 18.2-172; 18.2-181; 18.2-181.1)

The law is very straightforward when dealing with check fraud. On one hand, trying to defraud a person by obtaining their signature in order to forge it is a serious, distinct felony. On the other hand, most every other case of using bad checks to defraud institutions, corporations, or people out of money is equivalent to larceny.

Forgery Generally (Section 18.2-172)

Forgery is considered a serious crime. If an individual forges a coin or monetary bill, then the individual is guilty of a Class 5 felony. In such a case, the individual faces a felony conviction and 1 to 10 years in prison, or, at the discretion of the court or a jury trying the case, up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

If an individual (1) forges a public record (also including any public certificate, return, or attestation) of a public officer or official, or (2) or if the individual knowingly attempts to use such a forgery as though it were authentic, then the individual is guilty of a Class 4 felony. Specifically, the public record, or certificate, return, or attestation must be a document that could be submitted as legal proof. If an individual is guilty of this crime, the individual faces two to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000.

False Pretenses

If an individual uses false pretenses (intentional misrepresentation, trick, or lying) to obtain the money, property, or title of another person, then the individual is guilty of larceny. If the value of what was taken through false pretense was over $200, it is grand larceny (felony with one to 20 years in prison), whereas if the value is under $200 then it is petit larceny (up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500). An example of this crime would be using a fake or fraudulent check in exchange for goods or cash.

If an individual uses false pretenses to obtain the signature of another person, which could be used for forgery, then the individual is guilty of a Class 4 felony. In such a case, the individual faces a felony conviction with 2 to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000.

Likewise, designing a forgery with intent to use it, or having the tools to design a forgery with the intent to use it to create a forgery, both carry the same penalty as a Class 4 felony– a felony conviction with 2 to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000.

Bad Checks/Check Fraud

As opposed to forging fake checks, the Virginia laws surrounding bad checks and check fraud focus on crimes where the perpetrator issues a check the perpetrator knows will not work because of insufficient funds or bad credit. The law treats such an offense as though it were larceny, with the same accompanying thresholds and penalties.

If an individual issues a bad check with intent to defraud, then the individual is guilty of larceny. If the check has a value of $200 or more, then the individual is guilty of a Class 6 felony. In this case the individual faces one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of the court or a jury trying the case, up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. If the check has a value less than $200 then the individual guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

If an individual decides to issue bad checks in small amounts, with the intent to defraud, and over any 90-day period the total value of bad checks reaches $200 or more, then the individual is guilty of a Class 6 felony. In such a case, the individual faces a felony conviction with one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of the court or a jury trying the case, up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. However, the bad checks must all either (i) be drawn from the same account of any bank, trust company, banking institution, or depository; or (ii) be payable to the same person.

Identity Theft Section 18.2-186.3

Identity theft is broken down into three categories, distinguished by the purpose or intent behind the identity theft: for the perpetrator’s own or a third person’s use, with the intent to sell information to another person, and for the purpose of interfering with a criminal investigation.

“Identifying information” is defined to include, but not be limited to, the victim’s:

  • Name,
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit or debit card numbers
  • Personal identification numbers (PIN)
  • Electronic identification codes
  • Automated or electronic signatures
  • Biometric data
  • Fingerprints
  • Passwords
  • Any other information that can be used to access a victim’s financial resources, obtain identification, act as identification, or to acquire money, credit, loans, goods, or services

First, under Section 18.2-186.3(A), it is illegal for any person without the authorization of the person to whom the personal information belongs (hereafter known as “victim”), and with the intent to defraud for the perpetrator’s own or a third person’s use, to:

  • Acquire identifying information on victim not available to the general public that would allow or help the perpetrator obtain access to financial resources, procure identification documents, or acquire benefits of the victim;
  • Acquiring money, credit, loans, goods, or services through the use of the victim’s identifying information;
  • Procuring identification documents in the victim’s name; or
  • Acquiring or obtaining access to identifying information while impersonating a law enforcement officer or Virginia official.

Second, under Section 18.2-186.3(B), it is illegal for any person, without the victim’s permission and with the intent to sell or distribute information to another, to:

  • Fraudulently acquire identifying information on victim not available to the general public that would allow or help the perpetrator obtain access to financial resources, procure identification documents, or acquire benefits of the victim;
  • Acquiring money, credit, loans, goods, or services through the use of the victim’s identifying information;
  • Procuring identification documents in the victim’s name; or
  • Acquiring or obtaining access to identifying information while impersonating a law enforcement officer or Virginia official.

Third, under Section 18.2-186.3(B1), it is illegal for any person to use identification documents or identifying information of the victim (whether dead, alive, or fictitious) to avoid legal summons, arrest, prosecution, or to interfere with or obstruct a criminal investigation.

A violation of this section ordinarily constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

A violation of this section where the financial loss or damage is $200 or more constitutes a Class 6 felony– punishable by one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of the court or a jury trying the case, lesser penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.

Upon a second conviction for identity theft, the crime becomes a Class 6 felony (even if the value of the losses remains under $200). The penalty for this is one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of the court or a jury trying the case, lessened penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.

The form of identity theft where the perpetrator sells or distributes information to another when committed on five or more people constitutes a Class 5 felony. In such a case, the guilty party faces a felony conviction with 1 to 10 years in prison, or, at the discretion of a jury or the court trying the case, lessened penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

However a case where the perpetrator committed such identity theft on 50 or more people constitutes a Class 4 felony– punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000.

Any individual who violates any part of this section where, as a result, the victim is arrested or detained as part of a criminal investigation, is guilty of a Class 5 felony. Thus, the individual would face one to 10 years in prison, or, at the discretion or a jury or the court, up to 12 months in jail and/or $2,500 in fines.

In addition to these criminal penalties, the perpetrator is obligated to pay restitution to the victim to compensate for all the financial damage in addition to the expenses for correcting the inaccuracies or mistakes caused to the victim’s credit reports, bank information, etc.

As a crime similar to identity theft, it should be noted that posting the identifying information of another person with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate that person is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500 or less. If the victim of such a posting is a law enforcement officer, however, and the perpetrator knew this or had reason to know it, then the crime becomes a Class 6 felony punishable by one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of a jury or the court trying the case, up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $2,500.

Credit Card Fraud (Sections 18.2-195; 18.2-195.1)

Credit card fraud is possible in multiple ways, and Section 18.2-195 covers perpetrators attempting to defraud the cardholder or merchant in addition to perpetrators attempting to defraud the credit card issuer. Furthermore, it is important to note that “credit card” includes all debit cards and pre-paid cards.

First, a person is guilty of credit card fraud when, with the intent to defraud, the person:

  • Uses a credit card or credit card number the person knows is expired or revoked or stolen to acquire money, goods, services, or anything of value;
  • Uses someone else’s credit card or credit card number without that individual’s consent, or uses a credit card or credit card number that has not been issued to get money, goods, services, or anything of value;
  • Gets control of a credit card or credit card number as security or collateral for debt; or
  • Gets money from a credit card issuer when the person knows that such money is beyond credit availability or available advances.

Second, a person is guilty of credit card fraud when the person is authorized to provide money, goods, services, or anything of value upon presentation of a valid credit card, and that person with intent to defraud the issuer:

  • Gives money, goods, services, etc. to an individual when the person knows the credit card is stolen, expired, or revoked;
  • While the person does not give the cardholder money, goods, services, etc., to the cardholder, the person then tells the issuer that the money, goods, services, etc. was provided; or
  • Charges the credit card with more than allowed or authorized or known by the cardholder.

The penalties are described in Section as follows: if the person committing credit fraud defrauds cardholders, issuers, or merchants out of $200 or more over six months, it is a Class 6 felony; if the person defrauds less than $200 over six months then the crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the perpetrator is guilty of a Class 6 felony, the person faces one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of the court or a jury drying the case, reduced penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. If the perpetrator is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Lastly, if any person conspires or helps another commit credit card fraud, whether inside or outside Virginia, then that person is guilty of a Class 6 felony– facing a felony conviction with one to five years in prison, or, at the discretion of a jury or the court trying the case, lesser penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

There is one more form of credit card fraud called credit card factoring, which occurs when an individual presents a fake credit card number transaction record of sale to the issuer or merchant. If the individual committed such an act with intent to defraud the cardholder, issuer, or merchant, the individual is guilty of a Class 5 felony– facing a felony conviction with 1 to 10 years, or, at the discretion of a jury or the court trying the case, up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. If the individual committed this act without the intent to defraud anyone, then the individual is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor– punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or $2,500 in fines.

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