Los Angeles Credit Card Fraud Attorneys
If you are facing one or more criminal allegations of fraudulent activity in connection with credit or debit cards, you are likely staring down considerable jail time and very high fines if convicted. If you are a business owner and are being accused of engaging in this form of financial fraud, you are at risk of losing your business, along with incurring the associated criminal penalties under California, and potentially federal, law. In either case, you’ll need an experienced credit card fraud attorney to mount a defense on your behalf.
If the authorities have you under investigation for credit card fraud, or if you have already been charged, you need to help of a skilled and knowledgeable fraud defense attorney who understands California credit card fraud laws and how to formulate a strong legal defense on your behalf. At Spolin Law P.C., PC, we can evaluate all the options available to minimize, or if possible, dismiss the charges and penalties you are facing.
Call us today at (310) 424-5816 or use our online contact form.
Defining Credit Card Fraud in California
Any attempt to use a credit or debit card, or the account number of such a card in an unlawful manner is a violation of California’s credit card fraud laws. As per all fraud offenses under California law, you are only considered guilty of this offense if your use of the card in a fraudulent manner was done with the intent to defraud.
If you have been wrongly charged or a misunderstanding has occurred regarding a credit card transaction you were involved with, an experienced credit card fraud lawyer can seek all avenues to establish your lack of intent to defraud.
Types of Credit Card Fraud
There are a number of different ways that credit card fraud is carried out. Some of the most common ways include purchasing items from a “brick-and-mortar store” with a stolen credit card and using a stolen credit card to purchase items for sale on the Internet.
Additional activities that violate California credit card fraud laws include:
- Internet hacking activities into a website with the intent to steal card information
- Operating a facility in which counterfeit or illegal credit cards are manufactured or produced
- Possessing materials or equipment to counterfeit credit cards
- Trafficking credit cards
- Selling merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards for cash or over the Internet
Federal Penalties for Credit Card Fraud
Engaging in fraudulent activities with credit cards can carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison under federal law. Depending on the circumstances and the type of fraud involved, the penalty in some cases can reach to 20 years in prison.
Whether the charges made against you are from the federal government or the state, an experienced California credit card fraud attorney can help you understand the charges and what a potential conviction could mean for your future – and, just as important, put together a defense to mitigate those potential consequences.
Credit Card Fraud Under California Law
The California Penal Code, specifically Sections 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i, and 484j, cover the very specific offenses of credit card fraud, and their associated penalties under the law.
Section 484e PC- Stolen Credit Cards
Under this Penal Code Section, anyone who “sells, transfers, or conveys, an access card, without the cardholder’s or issuer’s consent” may be charged with Grand Theft. Charged as a misdemeanor, grand theft carries a punishment of one year in county jail. Charged as a felony, one count can carry between 16 months, one year, two years or three years in state prison. However, due to the fact that credit card fraud often involves numerous victims and multiple allegations, prison time can potentially extend to decades.
Section 484f PC- Forging Credit Card Information
This criminal offense involves manipulating an existing credit card, counterfeiting a fake card, or signing another person’s name in a credit card transaction without the consent of the card owner. As a misdemeanor, discharge carries a one-year sentence in the county jail. As a felony, this charge carries a maximum of three years in state prison. A skilled credit card fraud lawyer can work your behalf to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor, or otherwise eliminate potential negative penalties and consequences you are facing.
Section 484g PC- Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card or Account
This offense involves the use of a fake, stolen, altered, forged, expired, or revoked credit card in order to acquire goods or cash with the knowledge that the card is not valid. If the value of the fraudulently obtained items or services is greater than $950, the charge of Grand Theft under Penal Code Section 487 applies, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in state prison. If the value is less than $950, a conviction on Petty Theft applies under Penal Code Section 484, carrying a maximum one year sentence in the county jail.
Section 484h PC- Retailer Credit Card Fraud
This form of fraud occurs when a retailer knowingly accepts payment from an expired, stolen, fake, or revoked credit card, or provides false transactional evidence in order to receive payment for goods or services when the transaction did not occur. If the value of the services or items taken is in excess of $950, the crime is considered Grand Theft per Penal Code Section 487 and incurs a maximum penalty of three years in state prison. The crime of Petty Theft is applied if the amount is less than $950, and carries a county jail sentence of up to one year.
Section 484i PC- Credit Card Counterfeiting
The crime of credit card counterfeiting occurs when an individual possesses an incomplete card with the intent to complete it without the issuer’s consent. This crime also occurs when a person changes, alters, or modifies any aspect of a credit card with the intent to defraud – including the face of the card and information in the magnetic strip. This Code Section is also violated when a person possesses, makes, or traffics incomplete credit cards or equipment to make credit cards, knowing that the recipient will produce counterfeit cards.
Possession of an incomplete credit card that includes the intent to complete the card is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum six month county jail sentence and a fine of up to $1,000. If your offense resulting in a conviction pertains to equipment that produces cards, the crime may be charged as a wobbler, carrying as a felony a state prison sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years, and as a misdemeanor, a maximum six month county jail sentence along with a maximum $1,000 fine.
Section 484j PC- Publishing Credit Card Information
This crime involves communicating credit card information, i.e. private account info such as PIN numbers, passwords, etc. knowingly and with the intent to defraud an individual or entity. This crime is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum six month jail sentence and maximum fine of $1,000.
Possible Legal Defenses
Common defenses that an experienced California credit card fraud attorney may employ on your behalf include:
- Mistaken identity
- Lack of evidence
- Lack of intent
A skilled defense attorney will counteract the efforts of prosecutors to prove the intent to defraud by introducing and effectively utilizing the testimony of witnesses as well as particular character witnesses to persuade the jury and/or judge that either criminal intent did not exist or the actual crime was not committed. At times, a complex or confusing scenario or even a simple misunderstanding can lead to the filing a criminal charge. An adept attorney can bolster your position for an optimum outcome, whether that involves plea-bargaining to eliminate jail time in favor of fines and probation, or implementing a powerful defense at trial.
Experienced Representation From a Credit Card Fraud Lawyer
At Spolin Law P.C., PC, we understand the intricacies of the California credit card fraud laws and how to build your defense and an intelligent manner to fight for the reduction of your charges and penalties, or the outright dismissal of your case.