If you or a loved one is facing this type of charge you need the assistance of a dedicated Fresno real estate fraud attorney to help you navigate the legal system. California criminal defense lawyer Michael McKneely knows how devastating this charge can be to your life. Contact him to find out how he can help reduce or eliminate your charges. Call today at (559) 443-7442 for a free consultation. California has enacted serious laws to combat so-called real estate fraud. Many of these crimes are punishable as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances.
Real Estate Fraud in California
In California, real estate fraud may include any fraud that is connected to a real estate transaction of some kind. Because the definition is so broad, the crime can be charged and penalized in many ways depending on the circumstances.
Simply put, fraud is the act of knowingly misrepresenting the truth in order to compel someone to do something that is not in his or her best interest. Listed below are just a few types of real estate fraud
- Foreclosure Fraud – This crime often involves a “mortgage rescue service” or another group approaching a homeowner in the foreclosure process. The service may claim that they can work with the bank to hold off on the foreclosure for a fee. If the service is hired, but the foreclosure still proceeds, investigators are prone to allege fraud.
- Rent Skimming – This is an act that involves the owner of a property charging tenants for rent and then allegedly pocketing that money instead of using it to make payments on the property.
- Recording Forged Deeds – This crime involves a person recording a potentially suspect deed to property asserting an ownership interest that may be contested.
- Home Improvement Fraud – This involves an individual obtaining a home improvement loan in the name of someone else or a completely fictitious person. Real estate agents sometimes use the personal information of unsuspecting individuals in these schemes.
The Consequences of Real Estate Fraud
Fraud as Grand Theft
California’s grand theft law, Penal Code 487, is commonly used to prosecute forms of real estate fraud. When someone commits fraud and obtains more than $950 in the process, the crime qualifies as grand theft in accordance with Penal Code 487. In this case, the crime can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. If convicted of a felony, a person may face an additional sentence if they defrauded someone out of more than $65,000. The penalties may include:
- Misdemeanor – 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000
- Felony (less than $65,000) – 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison
- Felony (more than $65,000) – A base sentence plus an additional 1 to 5 years in state prison
Foreclosure Fraud, Rent Skimming, and Forged Deeds
Unlike crimes punished as grand theft, certain types of real estate fraud are punished in their own specific codes. Foreclosure fraud is regulated by Civil Code section 2945.4, rent skimming is covered in Civil Code section 890, and recording a false instrument is outlawed in Penal Code section 115. The consequences for these types of fraud include:
- Foreclosure Fraud – Similar penalties assigned to those convicted of grand theft real estate fraud
- Rent Skimming (Civil Penalties Only) – Paying the victims damages, legal fees, and additional fines
- Rent Skimming (Wobbler) – If you are charged with multiple acts of rent skimming, it becomes a criminal offense and can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. This crime is subject to the same penalties for foreclosure fraud
- Filing a False Instrument (Felony) – Probation or county jail for 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, and fines up to $10,000
Talk to a Fresno Real Estate Fraud Attorney Today
To be convicted of real estate fraud, you have to have intended to defraud someone. This is often very difficult for the prosecution to prove, and there are a number of strategies that a skilled real estate fraud attorney in Fresno can employ on your behalf. Call Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 to set up a free consultation. If you’re facing real estate fraud charges in California, preserve your legal rights by contacting us right away. Fresno criminal defense lawyer Michael McKneely has been on both sides of the criminal justice system, so he knows what to expect and how to make the process easier for you.