Brad Post, Host, Create the Movement: Welcome to Your Best Defense podcast. We are speaking to Oklahoma City fraud defense lawyer Jacqui Ford. Jackie, how are you doing today?
Jacqui Ford, Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney: I’m doing great! Thank you.
B: Good. We’ve been in the series of white-collar crimes. We talked about the overview of white-collar crimes. We talked about larceny. And now, we’re going to be talking about fraud. There’s many different areas of fraud, but can we just cover a few of those in this podcast today?
J: Sure. So, when I think about fraud, and making it different than other white-collar crimes. When you think about someone engaging in deceptive practices. This is not an action of omission. This is an active act of deception. So, they’re going to be pretending to be somebody they’re not, or pretending to have something that they don’t have.
The easy one to talk about his forgery. Right? Signing someone else’s check, fraudulently claiming that you are that person and you have that authority to do it. That’s forgery. That’s a felony, that is fraudulent in nature. What we see even more now, is because of our technological advances and all the social media and everything buys online, what we see a lot of now is identity theft – self impersonation. People are impersonating you, using your identifiers, or you know, you’re using someone else’s identifiers as is being them. You’re presenting yourself in some way, deceptively, to another party, in order to gain something. It’s only a crime if you’re gaining something using someone else’s identity that you’re not entitled to. Does that make sense? At a real basic level, we joked about this ahead of time, I had fake IDs when I was growing up.
B: Yup, I did too.
J: At one point, I used my girlfriend’s ID that was an actual real ID. It had her name and her identifiers on it, but as I presented that ID, even though I didn’t fraudulently make a driver’s license, I was committing fraud on the person who is I was presenting it too. I was impersonating my friend.
It happens the other way, right? If I put my own picture on it, and we’ve changed some information, I’ve engaged in a deceptive practice – putting information that does not belong to me, and I’ve made a fraudulent identification card.
So, when we think about differentiating white-collar crimes, any active deception is going to sound in fraud. And there are lots of fraud statutes in the state of Oklahoma. I mean, it could be from anything. There’s crime under section 1531 that says you can’t impersonate another person for the purposes of getting married. Now, why we would ever do that? I’m not real sure. But, if your name is Tom Smith and your name is really Bill Johnson, and you want to go by Tom Smith, because Bill Johnson has this record. And you meet a be autiful lady, and you’ve identified yourself as this person. Oftentimes, there is big fat story behind it. That is a fraudulent act. You’re actively deceiving the person you’re engaged in business with.
Where we see other kinds of fraud are pawn shops. You know? People go into a pawnshop, and let’s say I just got this watch for Christmas. If I were to go in today and pawn this watch, the pawn guy is going to ask me if I owned it for six months or not. And if I say I’ve owned it for six months. That’s not a truthful statement, and what I’m doing is engaging in fraudulent statement to obtain goods or services back from the pawnshop guy. That’s a felony. Lying to a pawnshop guy is a felony in the state of Oklahoma. You cannot be untruthful to them. They have to rely upon you when they’re receiving your merchandise to know that it’s not “hot”, or stolen. So, even lying to what I like to call a “licensed-knowingly-concealing-stolen-property vendor” is a crime. Even though, he can possess all those things, lying to him is not okay.
With prescription drugs, and a lot of people are facing strong addictions to prescription drugs, so what we see a lot of is obtaining prescriptions by fraud. It happens in a lot of different ways. Sometimes, people steal a prescription book and fraudulently hold themselves out to be the doctor. Sometimes, we go in and use somebody else’s name, because we know we’re all the system. And I can’t get any more pain pills, and this pain-management system is going to know that. So, I go in and I use my sister’s name to fraudulently obtain CDS. Obtaining CDS by fraud. Also a felony in the state of Oklahoma.
Representing yourself to be someone else in order to gain some financial benefit, or even if it’s not a financial benefit or a good, it might be a reputation. Holding yourself out to gain something that you would not otherwise be entitled to is going to be fraud.
J: In the state of Oklahoma you can almost bet your tail it’s going to be a felony. There are a couple of fraudulent charges that might give rise to a misdemeanor, but almost all of them are felony in nature. Because I think the legislature recognizes different than writing a hot check or bogus check, which would sound more like larceny. Right? Taking of something without the monies, but actively deceiving the person. And that’s what kind of amps it up. It amps it up in the minds of the legislature, the judges, and our prosecutors. And unfortunately, if it amps it up in their mind, you can bet it gets amped up in the minds of the jurors as well.
I have said this before. I can justify a lot of criminal activity. I have interviewed a lot folks. I know people who understand and can comprehend why somebody might commit murder. They do not, however, understand and comprehend why someone would steal from somebody that which is not rightfully theirs. People have a very very strong taste in their mouth for a thief. Fraud charges carry with them that kind of icky-ness. You know? People are looking at you different. We have to figure out why. Why are we engaged in this activity?
So, one of two things has happened. Either we’re factually guilty of some sort of fraudulent activity. Even if it’s not as bad as what they say it is. But we’ve presented information to someone with an intention to receive benefit that isn’t completely true. So, maybe it’s not that you’re pretending to be somebody else, or pretending to have money that you don’t have.
A lot of times what we see, a big thing in Oklahoma, is workers’ compensation fraud. Someone who claims to have been injured on the job, and they’re going through a workers’ comp. proceeding. They say they can’t work. Their doctors are saying they’re not released to work. And these companies spend an exorbitant amount of money to investigate you. I f you have a workers’ comp. claim I can guarantee you somewhere, somebody is out following you around, on someday, to see if you’re at the baseball fields with your kids, swinging that shoulder that you can’t use. You know? People are going out to look to see. So, in that vein, you’re not holding yourself out of somebody that you’re not. And you’re not receiving something that isn’t yours because the workers’ comp. benefits would come to you. But if you‘ve submitted fraudulent claims – then that’s fraud as well.
We see it with Medicare-Medicaid fraud. A lot of times what I see there is nurses or doctors or even administrative levels of small agencies that are charged with taking care of people. Oftentimes we see it hospice situations or nursing home situations where there’s not a lot of oversight. You’re submitting bills to Medicare or Medicaid to be paid for services of been rendered, and then they find out those services, in fact, were not rendered. Or, their services weren’t necessary for the treatment of the individual. We have entire sections of our prosecuting agencies in the state of Oklahoma designed to do that. At the attorney general’s office, at the federal level, and at the state level – people who are geared up for no other reason than to investigate and convict for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Investigate and convict for workers’ comp. fraud.
So, everything from passing a two-dollar check, to as big of a scheme as you can imagine of identity theft, submitting credit cards, printing bad cards, printing new checks. You know? Other forms of fraud are printing counterfeit money. You might be surprised; we still see that today. People engage in that kind of activity, and the government comes after them pretty fiercely. Those are all things sounding in fraud, and almost all of them carry jail time.
A lot of our fraud charges carry no minimum punishment. Which means that if we’re to go to jury trial, and there’s no minimum punishment up to five years, that the jury could convict, not send you to prison, but just give you a fine. So, oftentimes, statutes have a combination option – prison, fine, or both.
If you’ve received some monetary value, you can almost guarantee that any kind of plea or disposition from the court, is going to require making the victim whole. If you’ve stolen John Smith’s identity, and John Smith is out $45,000 because of it, part of your plea agreement or sentence after jury conviction is going to be make John Smith whole that $45,000. If you’ve defrauded Medicare, even though Medicare isn’t a person so to speak, they’re not a victim. That is a fund that is going to be expected to be replenished. So, part of any disposition in state or federal court on a Medicare-Medicaid fraud case is going to include reimbursement of funds that were taken fraudulently.
One of the things we haven’t talked about on any of the podcasts, and shame on me, but since we’re talking about it now, if you find yourself, especially in federal court, with some sort of fraud claim, you can almost guarantee there’s going to be a civil asset forfeiture attached to it. So, if you’ve taken a significant amount of money, and you’re incapable of being able to pay that money back, the government is going to ask the court to attach your personal assets. Especially, if they can show that those personal assets were gained as a result of your fraudulent activity. And they’re going to come in and try to seize those assets. Maybe it’s your home. Or your car. Or your airplane. Or your boat. Or whatever it might be, they’re going to attempt to seize that. Sometimes, I’ve see seizures on real property, as well as on personal property.
But these are the things that you want to think about as you either decide whether or not to engage in it. Or, realize that you purposefully or negligently engaged in fraudulent activity. These are the things you think about. You want to get with an Oklahoma City fraud defense lawyer early, and you want to start getting their advice so that you can start moving forward. Part of the process is always going to be making whole victims of those crimes. That can take a lot of time if we’re talking about large quantities of money. An Oklahoma City fraud defense lawyer can negotiate that time for you a whole lot better than someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. You’ve got to be able to put enough time between the incident, the charging, and the disposition of your case, for you to be able to show the court why it’s better for you to not go to prison, and to stay out on the streets.
B: You’ve been listening to Oklahoma City fraud defense lawyer Jacqui Ford. Jackie, think you.
J: Thanks so much!