There are a wide variety of state and federal financial crimes. Exposure for financial crimes can vary from a fine to multiple life sentences. In Texas the majority of financial crimes charged are minor felonies. Financial crimes include theft, forgery and fraud. Other related crimes include fraudulent use of identifying information, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
The most obvious financial crime is theft. The Texas Penal Code defines theft broadly to include receipt, or possession of stolen property. However, you must know the property is stolen to be guilty of theft. The Texas theft statute found in section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code is a long and confusing statute and jury instructions in a theft case can be more confusing. The broad definition of theft in the penal code makes conviction for theft far easier than one would think. More significantly even minor theft convictions may bar employment years or even decades later. Theft cases are often among the easiest cases for the State to prove because they are often captured on video and there are often eye witnesses to the transaction in question. However, embezzlement cases are often harder to prove.
On a positive note the State is often willing to dismiss provable theft cases if the money is paid back. Other times paying restitution up front doesn’t lead to a dismissal of the case but sets the conditions for you to remove the arrest from your criminal history. Getting a client a “good deal” on a provable theft case is an art rather than a science and it requires an experienced criminal attorney.
Forgery is a felony in Texas regardless of the amount. Typically the forged instrument is a check, but forgery cases arise from a variety of written documents. Forgery may be charged when a person signs another person’s signature without their permission or merely passes a forged document to another person knowing that the document is forged. Plea negotiations in forgery cases are more difficult than in theft cases because paying the money back is often not as important to the victim in the case. The amounts are often smaller in forgery cases than in theft cases, and sometimes the loss is paid by a third party.
Fraud is charged where deception is used to secure a benefit. Fraud is inherently deceptive and harmful to another person or entity. Like theft, fraud cases come in all shapes and sizes. Some more common types of fraud arise from applications for government assistance. In these situations under reporting income is often the basis for the fraud charge. These cases often arise where the State believes that two or more wage earners are living in a household when the applicant states that only one wage earner is living there. These cases become complicated in situations where other adults come in and out of the household and/or have sporadic employment.