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Tampa Criminal Lawyer > Blog > Criminal > What Is A Scheme To Defraud In Florida?

What Is A Scheme To Defraud In Florida?


Last week in Pinellas County, the ex-treasurer of a high school athletic booster club was arrested for a scheme to defraud after she removed more than 40,000 dollars from the club for her own benefit over a 2 year period. The defendant used the club’s debit card for personal charges and attempted to deposit money back into the booster club account only after other members of the booster club alerted her to bounced checks for purchased items. She still owes the booster club over $20,000 dollars and is currently remanded in jail. What exactly is a “scheme to defraud”?

What is “Scheme to Defraud”? 

Florida statute defines scheme to defraud as a “systematic ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud” at least one person or the intent to obtain property by false pretenses, “promises or misrepresentations of a future act.” To be convicted of a scheme to defraud, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the intention to defraud another person by stealing funds, money, goods or property. In the defendant’s case, she had custody over the funds as booster treasurer but made illegal transfers using the booster debit card for her personal benefit. She violated her fiduciary duties and admitted to doing so prior to her arrest. 

Penalties for Scheme to Defraud 

Penalties for scheme to defraud are dependent on the value assigned to the property in question and whether or not the defendant took illegal possession of it. If the property is valued at less than $20,000, the defendant is charged with a third degree felony and could serve up to 5 years in prison  if convicted and pay fines up to $5,000. If the property is valued at more than $20,000 but less than $50,000, the defendant is charged with a second degree felony, punishable up to 15 years in prison, a lengthy probation upon release and fines not to exceed $10,000. If the property is worth more than $50,000 the defendant is charged with a first degree felony and can serve up to  30 years in prison, a possible 30 year probation, and  fines amounting to $10,000. The penalties for these crimes are steep so it is crucial you obtain legal counsel as soon as possible if you have been formally charged.

If the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud an entity or person but never came in contact with the property, they can still be charged with a third degree felony if the items they intended to steal or obtain illegally were worth more than $300. If the items had a value less than $300, the defendant can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor. The penalty for a first degree misdemeanor in Florida is up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Property crimes also affect a defendant’s reputation and employment prospects. Defendants convicted of fiduciary crimes often cannot obtain jobs requiring the passage of a background check or security clearance because of their criminal history and character. 

Contact Attorney Bryant Scriven for Help 

Most people do not intend to defraud or steal items or property from others. Sometimes a simple mistake is made that can be corrected, but in other cases the intent to defraud is present. However, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to establish the defendant’s intent. If you or someone you know was charged with embezzlement, theft, scheme to defraud or another property crime, it is crucial that you consult with experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney Bryant Scriven. Call today to schedule a consultation.




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