Category: White Collar Crime

White Collar Crimes | NoCuffs

California Money Laundering

Since AMC’s premier of Breaking Bad, many people have became intrigued with the criminal world and how criminal enterprises logistically function. Disguising their obscene wealth becomes a significant factor for the characters, and they purchase a car wash to use as a filter for their money. Their actions exemplify California Money Laundering at its most basic. The criminals use an intermediary to conceal the source of criminal funds in order to appear legitimate, thereby avoiding suspicion from law enforcement officials.


California law describes two distinct forms of money laundering. California State Penal Code 186.10 defines money laundering related to any type of crime. California State Health and Safety Code 11370.9 concerns money earned from drug crimes.



An example of money laundering under California State Penal Code 186.10  involves a married couple. The husband runs an illegal gambling ring on the weekends and brings home an average of $5,000 every week. During the week his wife consistently deposits the cash into their joint banking account. Although she never takes part in the illegal activity, she knows where the money came from. This is enough to convict a person of money laundering.


An example of money laundering under California State Health and Safety Code 11370.9  involves a successful drug dealer. Throughout the month he makes $30,000 by selling black tar heroin and cocaine. He uses the cash from drug sales to stock the registers of a fleet of food trucks that he owns. He uses the food trucks to conceal the source of the drug money, and thus can be convicted of money laundering.




The prosecution must prove three elements of the crime in order to convict someone of money laundering in the State of California.

  • The individual conducted or attempted to conduct a transaction through a financial institution.
  • The transaction met the minimum amount of money required by California state law.
    • $5,000 over a 7-Day period or $25,000 over a 30 day period
  • The individual took part in the financial transactions to promote illegal activity.


The State of California can convict people of money laundering whether or not they were involved with the other illegal activities that generated the funds.


California law considers both forms of money laundering as wobblers. meaning the prosecution may pursue misdemeanor or felony charges for money laundering. The charges depend on the defendant’s criminal history as well as on the facts of the case.


Misdemeanor penalties can include jail time of up to one year, and fines of up to $1,000.


Felony penalties include jail sentences of from 16 months to four years, and fines of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of money laundered, whichever sum is greater.


cartoon portrait of al capone


History of Money Laundering


Al Capone arguably ran the most successful organized crime ring in the United States during the prohibition era.  Although he earned upwards of 100 million dollars annually through bootlegging, extortion, prostitution, and illegal gambling, the authorities could not find the money. Capone invested in cash-only laundromats as a way to obscure the source of his financial gains, thereby coining the phrase “money laundering.”


Currently, the term refers to any process that “cleans” criminally attained funds of their illicit origins. This process allows the funds to be used legally.


While Capone’s actions coined the term “money laundering,” the practice has been around as long as money has existed.


The three integral steps of money laundering involve placement, layering, and integration.


Placement involves converting illegally obtained money into assets that seem legitimate. The practice could involve an individual depositing funds into a bank account of a separate entity. The separate entity then functions as a middleman between the criminal money and legitimate spending.


Layering involves using a multitude of transactions in order to distance the funds from their criminal origins. The practice could involve multiple transfers across multiple accounts, or the purchase of tangible property. Basically, layering disguises the money’s source.


Integration allows the money to reenter the mainstream economy. Moreover, it benefits the original owner. The owner can invest the money in legitimate businesses and produce fake invoices to further mask the origin of the money.


Prior to 1986, the federal government did not recognize money laundering as an independent crime. Federal prosecutors needed to link money laundering to a separate crime, such as tax evasion in the Al Capone case. However, the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 permanently outlawed money laundering as an individual crime.


The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 began to crack down on money obtained from transporting and selling illegal drugs. Drug trafficking often occurred through large-scale organized crime rings. However, low-level workers handled the actual transportation and sale of the drugs while crime ring leaders were able to keep the profits.


The money laundering Control Act of 1986 allowed prosecutors to charge drug bosses for merely handling the money attained through illicit activity.


drawing of a gangster in a hat smoking a cigarette


Defining California Money Laundering


Understanding the various terms used in California law pertaining to money laundering can facilitate an understanding of the crime and it’s definition.


California State Juror Instructions 2997, Money Laundering, provides the following explanations:



“Financial institution” means any national bank or banking institution located or doing business in the State of California.


A “transaction” includes the deposit, withdrawal, transfer, or bailment, loan, pledge,  payment, or exchange of currency or a monetary instrument, or the electronic, wire, magnetic, or manual transfer of funds between accounts by, through, or to, a financial institution.


A “monetary instrument” means money of the United States of America, or of any other separate entity


“Criminal activity” means a criminal offense punishable under the laws of the State of California by death or imprisonment in the state prison, or a criminal offense committed in another jurisdiction which, under the laws of that jurisdiction, is punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.


A “foreign bank draft” means a bank draft or check issued or made out by a foreign bank, savings and loan, casa de cambio, credit union, currency dealer or exchanger,  check cashing business, money transmitter, insurance company, investment or private bank, or any other foreign financial institution that provides similar financial services, on an account in the name of the foreign bank or foreign financial institution held at a bank or other financial institution located in the United States or a territory of the United States.



California State Penal Code 186.10


California State Penal Code 186.10 defines general money laundering as:

Conducting or attempting to conduct, a transaction through a financial institution.


The transaction or series of transactions through the financial institution must add up to a total value of more than $5,000 over a 7-Day period, or more than $25,000 over a 30-day period.


The individual must conduct the transactions:

–   in a deliberate attempt to promote criminal activity

–    with the knowledge that the funds originally came from illegal activity





An example of General money laundering involves Jan. Jan runs a brothel and makes $1,500 a day.  Every Monday and Thursday she deposits $4,500 into the same bank account. The State of California could convict Jan of general money laundering.  Even though she never attempted to conceal the origin of the funds, she did make multiple deposits within a seven-day period totaling more than $5,000. The money came from an illegal source.


However, the prosecution must prove the defendant intended to support criminal activity.


Another example involves Ryan and Kelly.  Ryan and Kelly began dating years ago. Ryan explains to Kelly that he wants to start a business, but needs start up money.  Kelly gives Ryan $15,000 as an investment for what she believes to be equity in a legitimate business. However, Ryan uses the money to start a meth lab.


Kelly did not know that her money would be used to finance criminal activity involving controlled substances. She therefore cannot be convicted of money laundering.


California Health and Safety Code 11370.9


California Health and Safety Code 11370.9 describes money laundering in connection with controlled substance crimes.


The prosecution must prove three things in order to convict an individual of money laundering in connection with controlled substance crimes.

  1. The individual received, acquired, or engaged in financial transactions involving money or tangible property that he or she understood to have resulted from a controlled substance offense.
  2. He or she did so to conceal or disguise the source, ownership, or control of the money.
  3. The amount of money laundered totaled more than $25,000 over a 30-day period.


table with drugs, money, and a pistol on top


Illustrative Examples


Example A.


Michael sells cocaine. One week he deposits $10,000 into a single bank account. He intends to use that drug money to pay his living expenses over the next two months.

Under California State Health and Safety Code 11370.9, Michael cannot be convicted for two reasons. First, he did not attempt to conceal the origin of the money that he deposited into a bank. Second, he only deposited $10,000, which is less than the required amount of $25,000.


However he may very well be charged under California State Penal Code 186.10.

Michael made a deposit to a bank account that totaled more than $5,000, and he understood the money came from criminal activity.



Example B.


A related example  involves Michael and his cocaine business. Over the next month, Michael sells $40,000 worth of cocaine, and now has $40,000 in cash. Michael understands the inherent risk of carrying that much cash. However, he also knows that he cannot deposit $40,000 of illegal money into a bank account.

Michael makes a deal with his friend Scott. Scott owns a pawn shop, and can use the cash to stock the register. Michael agrees to give Scott $40,000 in cash. In return,  Scott will give Michael $40,000 in the equity of his pawn shop.


The prosecution could not charge Michael under California State Penal Code 186.10 because he never made a transaction through a financial institution.

The prosecution could charge Michael under Health and Safety Code 11370.9 because he engaged in financial transactions designed to hide the origin of illegal money derived from a drug crime. Plus, the total amount of money totaled more than $25,000.



Example C.

Yet another way money laundering can be conducted is exemplified by Michael’s cocaine business. After selling $40,000 worth of cocaine, he recognizes that he needs to get rid of the cash. On January 1st, he approaches a gold dealer and purchases $20,000 in gold. On February 19th, he spends the other $20,000 on gold from the same gold dealer.


Although Michael engaged in transactions designed to conceal the origin of his cocaine money, he could not be convicted of money laundering.

Michael only purchased $20,000 in one month, and his transactions never totaled more than $25,000 in a 30 day period. Therefore, Michael cannot be convicted under Health and Safety Code 11370.9.

Michael also cannot be convicted under Penal Code 186.10 because the transactions involved a gold dealer, and not a financial institution.



Penalties of California Money Laundering


The State of California considers both forms of money laundering to be wobblers. This means the prosecution may pursue either misdemeanor or felony charges for money laundering depending on the defendant’s criminal history, and on the specific facts of the case.


Misdemeanor penalties for either form of money laundering include the following:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • Fines of up to $1,000


The felony penalties for Penal Code 186.10, General Money Laundering, include the following:

  • Jail time of from 16 months to 3 years
  • Fines of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money laundered, whichever sum is greater
  • The maximum fines increase if the defendant has any prior money laundering convictions.
  • The maximum prison sentence increases if the total amount of money laundered is more than $50,000.


The felony penalties under California State Health and Safety Code 11370.9, Controlled Substances Money Laundering, include:

  • Prison sentences of from 2 to 4 years
  • Fines of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of money laundered, whichever sum is greater




Understanding Money Laundering in California


Money laundering covers any process designed to obscure the origin of illicitly obtained money.


The State of California recognizes two forms of money laundering. Penal Code 186.10 concerns money laundering related to any type of criminal activity, while Health and Safety Code 11370.9 pertains to money laundering related to any drug crime.


The State of California considers both crimes to be wobblers. Consequently, the prosecution can pursue either felony or misdemeanor charges.


The misdemeanor penalties include county jail time of up to one year, and fines of up to $1,000.


On the other hand, felony money laundering charges include penalties of from 16 months to four years in prison, as well as fines of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of money laundered, depending on which sum is greater.



Defending Against Money Laundering Charges in California


Regardless of the money laundering charge, experienced criminal defense attorneys can mount the most effective legal defenses.


Money laundering convictions under Penal Code 186.10 require both intent and knowledge. Experienced defense attorneys can show that the defendant neither intended to promote criminal activity, nor understood that the money came from criminal activity.


Because conviction under Health and Safety Code 11370.9 requires an intent to hide the source or owner of drug proceeds, the prosecution must prove that the defendant both knew the source of the funds, and intended to hide it.


The amount of money laundered determines whether the prosecution can pursue money laundering charges. If the defendant did not make his transactions with the required amount of money as defined by law, he or she may not be convicted of money laundering.


One of the most important factors of any criminal charge pertains to police behavior. An experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the timeline, research the situation, and accurately understand the series of events. If the defense attorney discovers police misconduct, such as illegal searches or seizures, then all evidence against the defendant becomes inadmissible.


Working with an aggressive defense attorney can lead to the most successful outcome for defendants accused of money laundering crimes.

California Theft by False Pretenses

California Penal Code 532 defines theft by false pretenses. The state prohibits people from making false promises, thereby convincing someone else to give up their property.

People often think of theft as forcibly taking property belonging to others. In other words, someone takes property against the will of another person or entity. On the other hand, theft by false pretenses involves someone willfully giving up his or her property. However, he or she does this only because of false information deliberately provided by another person or entity. Some may describe this crime as theft through deception.

The penalties for theft by false pretenses are determined by the value of the stolen property. The state may classify the crime as petty theft if the value of the property stolen is assessed at less than $950, or as grand theft if the property is assessed at more than $950. Grand theft also includes firearms and automobiles. Grand theft convictions carry penalties of up to three years in state prison plus fines, while petty theft penalties include up to six months in jail plus fines.

The 2002 Movie Catch Me if You Can is based on Frank Abignale Jr.’s semi-autobiographical book of the same name, and depicts a young man stealing $2.5 million before his 21st birthday. He used confidence tricks and false pretenses to steal every cent.


man counting cash and cell phones


Defining Theft By False Pretenses in California


Theft by false pretenses in the State of California is outlined in Penal code 532, which defines a few key elements.

  • The defendant intentionally deceived the victim through false pretenses or misrepresentation.
  • The defendant did so in order to receive money or property from the victim.
  • The victim relied on the false pretenses or false representation of the defendant.


  • The defendant actually misrepresented himself or herself, or made promises under false  pretenses.

The prosecution can illustrate false pretenses through any of the following:

    1. A false token
    2. A written note regarding the false pretenses signed by the defendant
    3. The testimony of two witnesses regarding the defendant’s false pretenses
    4. The testimony of one witness plus corroborating evidence





A very real-world example of theft by false pretenses is illustrated by the Bre-X mining scandal , which occurred during the early to mid-1990’s. A Canadian gold mining company purchased a mine in Indonesia which initially produced a very limited amount of gold. Consequently, the company began to fail. However, one of the workers at the company began to “salt” the daily core samples. As a result, Bre-X began to accumulate more investors, and more money, but ultimately collapsed after the crime surfaced.

A core sample is “salted” by adding other, more valuable, minerals to the sample – in this case, gold. Salting the core samples of this particular mine indicated a much higher quantity of gold than there actually was.

Bre-X lied about the mine’s success to attract new investors. Moreover, the company convinced investors to continue supporting their failing mine through deceit. Bre-X leveraged their fraudulent core samples to acquire more investors for the struggling company.

large mining rig

Elements of The Crime


Convicting someone of theft by false pretenses requires the prosecution to prove the elements of the crime.


Element One

The first element concerns deliberate deceit. The defendant must have known that what he or she said was false, and have had the intent to convince the other person that it was true.

“False pretenses” can include:

  1. Making a reckless statement without checking its validity or the validity of any supportive facts of the statement
  2. Withholding critical information under the circumstances
  3. Making promises without any intent to keep them


Hypothetical Example

Tammy begins to produce what she describes as a panacea, In reality, however, there is no scientific evidence to support her claims. She convinces a person suffering from cancer to purchase her chemical compound with the promise that it will cure cancer. Tammy is guilty of theft by false pretenses even if she didn’t positively know her claims were not true. She recklessly claimed that her chemical compound could cure diseases without any scientific evidence.

Element Two

The second element involves fraudulent end goals. The defendant must intend to persuade the victim to give up his or her property to the defendant.

Deception for another purpose does not qualify as an adequate element of this crime


Ryan is curious about human behavior. He decides to pretend to be Jesus Christ and to go about announcing the Second Coming – simply to observe people’s reactions. Eventually, this gains traction on the internet and he becomes a well-known public figure within a certain demographic. As a result, people begin to send him money with no solicitation on his part. Ryan is not guilty of theft by false pretenses because he never intended to persuade anyone that he was Christ, nor  did he request that property be given to him.


Element Three


The third element involves trust. The defendant’s lies must be believed by the victim. The victim  must have given up his or her property because of false information deliberately given by the defendant. If the victim knew the individual was lying, and then chose to give up his or her property, it is more difficult to prove a case of theft by false pretenses.


A skilled defense attorney will be able to accurately assess the victim’s motives in this situation. After examining the relationship between the  defendant and the victim, a good defense lawyer will devote adequate resources to investigating both parties. The defense attorney will accurately analyze the facts, and will be able to show that the victim did not give the property based on the defendant’s statements, but for some other reason, thus removing the fault from the defendant.

Element Four


The fourth element involves a deliberate lie. The individual must cause the victim to believe in his or her lie through some means.

The law recognizes four ways to illegally acquire trust in a theft by false pretenses case.

  1. A “false token” could be counterfeit money or some related item supporting the false pretenses.
  2. Any note or documentation of the false pretenses signed or handwritten by the defendant.
  3. Testimony from two witnesses that supports the false pretenses.
  4. Testimony from one witness, together with supporting evidence that indicates the false pretenses.


close up of a $100 bill


Fighting Theft by False Pretenses in California

Building a defense against theft by false pretenses charges can be challenging. However the prosecution has the burden of proving the defendant’s intent to deceive. The defendant may genuinely believe in what he or she said, and therefore never intended to deceive the victim. Moreover, the defendant may have misunderstood the situation and the facts surrounding it. A skilled defense attorney can introduce enough reasonable doubt to prevent the prosecution from attaining a conviction.

Another key factor of theft by false pretenses involves the victim relying on the defendant’s word and acting accordingly. If the victim fully understood the situation, the risks involved, and the defendant’s intent, then the victim did not rely on the defendant’s lie. If the victim did not rely on the defendants actions, then the defendant cannot be convicted of theft by false pretenses.

The penalties for theft by false pretenses are the same as for other forms of theft, and vary according to whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. Theft of property valued at $950 or less is considered petty theft.


Penalties for Theft by False Pretenses in California


Theft of property valued  at more than $950, or of a car, a firearm, or livestock, is considered grand theft under California State Penal Code 532. Grand theft is considered a wobbler crime, meaning that the charge will be determined by the specific circumstances of the case, as well as by the defendant’s criminal history. However, the State of California will always charge any theft of a firearm or automobile as a felony.


The penalties for misdemeanor petty theft include

  1. Up to 6 months in county jail
  2. Fines of up to $1,000


The penalties for misdemeanor grand theft are:

  1. Up to 1 year in county jail
  2. Fines of up to $1,000


The penalties for felony grand theft are:

  1. 16 months to 3 years in state prison
  2. Fines of up to $10,000


man using a debit card


Understanding California Theft By False Pretenses


Those facing a charge of theft by false pretenses owe it to themselves to seek the most skilled defense attorney possible in order to fight the charges, and to find a successful outcome.


The State of California prohibits theft by false pretenses as outlined in California Penal Code 532. Theft by false pretenses can also be described as a con, or confidence trick.


The state must prove that the defendant carried out a few specific elements of the crime:

First, the defendant intentionally deceived the victim through a lie.

Second, the defendant lied in order to gain the victim’s trust and to receive property from the victim.

Third, the victim relied on the lie.

Finally, the defendant actually misrepresented himself or herself or made promises under false pretenses.


Working with an experienced legal team can make all the difference, both in a catastrophe and in a minor inconvenience. The defendant may have had genuinely good intent. Determining what other people are thinking, or thought, is not possible due to the current limitations of science and technology. The prosecution must prove intent to deceive. Since everyone makes mistakes, and since circumstances may change dynamically, proving intent to deceive is more challenging than it may appear at first glance.

Money Laundering

money launderingMoney laundering is a white collar crime in the state of California. It is the act of transferring illegally obtained money through legitimate people or accounts. This is done so that its original source is untraceable. Since money laundering is usually associated with other crimes, like fraud and conspiracy, it is possible for the offender to receive multiple charges simultaneously.

The Money Laundering Control Act passed in 1986 as an effort to crack down on the illegal exchange of money. Most of the money came from the transport and sale of illegal drugs.

At the time, large-scale organized crime rings were the ones perpetrating the drug trafficking. Therefore, by criminalizing drug traffickers’ income, prosecutors could get to the bosses. Consequently, taking out the little guy to get to the bigger guy. This law allows law enforcement to target the people higher up in the organization.

Furthermore, what is really interesting here, is the unintended consequence. Although the law’s intent is to tackle big-time drug operations, several other people are now in its web. Money laundering now leads to the arrest of many people who are far from being organized crime bosses.

Creative Drafting of Money Laundering Laws

The law criminalizes any financial involvement with someone who earns money from an illegal activity. Of course, this includes the association with a family member or friend. Even if you don’t participate in the illegal activity yourself, you may still be at risk of arrest. By the same token, simply knowing that the money in a transaction came from criminal activity is a violation of the money laundering laws.

Important Considerations

It is equally important to note something else here. Money laundering is not a catch-all law for all people spending money illegally. Authorities are unable to charge someone for laundering without the involvement of a bank. For example, if illegally obtained money pays -in cash- for a new car, this is not money laundering. Since the money did not go through a financial institution, it would receive different prosecution.

Types of transactions that can lead to money laundering charges in the state of California include:

  • making deposits,
  • withdrawing money,
  • initiating an electronic wire transfer,
  • exchanging money into a foreign currency, or
  • writing a check.

Prosecution for Money Laundering

Though money laundering is illegal in the state of California, authorities may only prosecute in certain circumstances. Punishable laundering must meet a minimum amount of money.

In order to violate the money laundering law you must engage in transactions reaching $5,000 or $25,000.

  1. Firstly, a single transaction or series of transactions of more than $5,000 in a seven-day period. Or,
  2. If you spend more than $25,000 in a thirty-day period.

If the amounts in question are less than these, you cannot receive a conviction.

The penalties for such laundering can be severe. They range varies based on the number of offenses, the amount of the financial transactions, and the defendant’s previous criminal record. One offense of money laundering typically results in a one-year sentence in a county jail. Additionally, California laws set increased terms of imprisonment to correlate with the value amount of the transactions. Under state law, there are several types of increasing terms for transactions up to $2.5 million. The maximum penalty is twenty years in prison per offense.

A Great Defense

Since money laundering is a financial crime, each case of financial fraud must have a thorough analysis. Financial transactions, whether they are securities, banking or real estate, are always a top priority to those doing an investigation. If you find yourself under suspicion of money laundering, call an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. A criminal defense attorney will prepare you for a proper and effective defense.

1.800.NoCuffs is the number you want to remember and hope you never need. Call us 24/7, 365 days a year to speak to the top criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles.

Insurance Fraud and You – What You Need to Know in California

insurance fraudInsurance fraud occurs when someone knowingly falsifies information to obtain benefits that are not theirs to claim. It also occurs when one denies a benefit that to which someone else is due. This type of fraud includes:

  1. Auto insurance,
  2. property insurance,
  3. homeowners insurance,
  4. health insurance,
  5. life insurance, and
  6. any other type of insurance available in the state of California.

Circumstances of Fraud

Depending on the circumstances of the fraudulent act, penalties may go through the Department of Fraud Division. On the other hand, the Fraud Division may handle it as a criminal matter in a court of law. Authorities can charge insurance fraud cases as felonies, however, some are not. Some are actually are misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case.

The California insurance fraud law seeks to prevent and punish false insurance claims intended to generate payments to an individual by insurance companies. Some examples of this fraud include:

  1. Submission of auto insurance claims from exaggerated or deliberate injuries,
  2. Doctors charging for services that not originally included in an estimate, or
  3. Faking an injury at work in order to be eligible for workers compensation.

Generally speaking, a prosecution for insurance fraud requires proof of the defendant’s intent to defraud.

Furthermore, if a prosecutor can prove the defendant knowingly make a false claim, or can show the defendant exaggerated the claim, then he has a case. The prosecutor will charge the defendant. If the attorney proves his case, the defendant is likely at risk of a guilty verdict.

Degrees of Fraud

There are varying degrees of fraud, beginning with small untruths, such as exaggeration on insurance claims. The more serious cases of insurance fraud include arson, destruction of property, theft, or faking an accident or injury in order to collect large insurance policies.

In order to protect the public from the stress and economic loss caused by insurance fraud, the State of California dedicates funding to the Fraud Division. This division actively investigates and arrests those who commit insurance fraud in the state of California. According to the Insurance Information Institute, fraudulent claims equal nearly $30 billion annually.

People who commit insurance fraud range from organized criminals who take large sums of money through insurance claims mills and professionals who inflate the cost of their services, to middle class men and women who exaggerate when filing an insurance claim in order to make extra money.

Penalties for Insurance Fraud

The punishment for this type of fraud depends on the specific type of fraud committed and the defendant’s activities specific to the case. If prosecuted as a misdemeanor in the state of California, insurance fraud carries a fine of up to $10,000, one year in county jail, or both.

In general, this type of fraud is a felony. Felony insurance fraud carries a fine of up to $50,000, or double the value of the defrauded amount, and up to five years in jail. If the felony is for worker’s compensation insurance fraud, the fine can be increased to $150,000 or double the value of the defrauded amount, depending on which penalty is greater.

For those convicted of insurance fraud with a felony conviction for fraud, the rules change. For this, a two-year enhancement may join up with their sentence. Additionally, California state court may require the defendant to pay restitution to the defrauded parties.

If you’ve been charged with insurance fraud in the state of California, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.

Forgery – Felony or Misdemeanor Offenses Under California Law

forgeryForgery, is a crime of misrepresentation. Though the crime itself is simple, the resulting loss to the victim is severe. In California, prosecutors aggressively litigate against these potential criminals. Although, all things considered, the fines and penalties may seem excessive considering the charge.

Many people think forgery is simply faking another person’s signature on a document, but the law is much more in-depth. This is a white collar crime involving the creation or alteration of a document in order to gain anything of value. It occurs when the suspect has the intent to commit fraud and signs another person’s name to gain a benefit.

Forgery Examples

While many think of a fake check as a classic example, this is not the only variety of this crime. As technology changes, so has the definition of the crime. Credit card theft in the state of California is often a crime of forgery, per the prosecution. This is a crime the receives a great deal of attention under state law.

Another consideration here is counterfeiting. This also falls under the category of a felony or misdemeanor act. Counterfeiting is the unlawful imitation or duplication of documents and other items with legal significance. A counterfeiting prosecution can result in either a misdemeanor or felony charge.

Though counterfeiting is often a felony, California state law allows a misdemeanor prosecution. This, however depends solely on the element receiving the counterfeiting. Specific items such as like trading cards and transit tickets are more likely to be misdemeanors.

Forgery Conviction

In order receive a conviction of forgery, three elements must be true:

  1. Identification of a written instrument fo committing of forgery,
  2. Proof the defendant materially altered an existing written instrument or falsely signed a written instrument, and
  3. proving the defendant acted with intent to defraud.

The crime of forgery is not complete until the counterfeit item changes hands. For example, take the case of a stolen checkbook. Simply signing someone’s signature is not a felony. The act becomes more severe once the check exchanges hands to a bank teller or into an account. Up until that point, the only crime is the crime of attempted forgery. Though attempted forgery is not as severe a crime, it carries its own set of penalties and fines.

Examples of forgery include:

  1. Writing yourself a fake prescription with a signature from a doctor,
  2. Switching out a page in your parent’s will that leaves more inheritance to your name, or
  3. Endorsing a check made out to someone else without their permission.

A Wobbler Crime

Forgery is a ‘wobbler’ crime in the state of California; meaning, it can be charged and punished as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime. When deciding whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor will take a number of factors into consideration, including the suspect’s criminal record, the amount of the loss, and the age or status of the victim.

If the crime is a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the crime is a felony, the penalty can be extreme. Passing a forged check in excess of $400 can result in a

three year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Additionally, the felony can be increased based upon the amount of loss or prior record of the suspect, especially if the felony charge is a third strike.

Work with an Attorney to Defend Your Rights

There are several defenses to the crime of forgery. By hiring a criminal defense attorney in the state of California and proving permission, lack of passing the item, or lack of intent, you may prevent charges from being filed against you.

If you find yourself staring at a felony or misdemeanor conviction, don’t do it alone. Call the top criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles. 1.800.NoCuffs is the number to remember and hope you never need. Call The Kavinoky Law Firm 24/7, 365 days a week. We don’t sleep – so you can.


embezzlementEmbezzlement is a white collar crime. It most commonly occurs as employee theft or fraud. This crime is a type of property theft that occurs when someone violates a trusted money-keeping relationship. This person, who monitors someone else’s money or property, then steals all or part of the property for personal gain.

California state law distinguishes embezzlement from larceny or theft by requiring there be an element of trust. In order for an this conviction to stick, it must be property that the defendant legally possesses or has authority to access.

Embezzlement & Employment

Most embezzlement occurs in an employment situation, and can occur in the form of stealing money, credit card numbers, unlawfully accessing bank accounts, or taking product without permission. This type of crime comes in different forms. Examples include, a bank teller taking money from clients, or a family member taking money from a relative for whom they’re caring.  Additionally, even managers of retail stores taking product home without permission are subject to criminal conviction.

In the state of California, embezzlement is punished according to the value of the property stolen. Property worth less than $950 (petty theft), and embezzlement of property worth more than $950 (grand theft) are two categories of embezzlement that carry different levels of punishment.

Petty Theft

Petty theft or embezzlement of property worth less than $950 is a misdemeanor. If convicted, the defendant faces the possibility of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the property is worth less than $50, the prosecutor may choose to charge the offense as an infraction. Infractions carry a penalty of a fine up to $250, and are not available to defendants with any prior theft-related convictions.

Grand Theft

Those charged with embezzlement of more than $950 can see charges of grand theft. A conviction carries a jail sentence of up to one year, if charged with a misdemeanor. If found guilty of felony grand theft, state prison time of 1 months, two years or three years is possible. The embezzlement of firearms and autos always fall under the umbrella of grand theft, no matter their value.

Embezzlement of public money is a felony in California. Those convicted of embezzling public money are subject to increased fines and penalties, and usually must repay the stolen property or funds in addition to spending two to four years in prison. Additionally, those convicted of embezzling public funds will be permanently ineligible for any position in state or local government.

Embezzlement Prosecution Must Include These 3 Elements:

1. You have/had a relationship of trust with the victim,

2. Certain property care results from the relationship, and

3. You specifically intended to deprive the victim of that property by committing fraud and taking it as your own.

As with other types of crimes, white collar crimes are subject to additional enhancements. In the case of embezzlement, if the property is worth more than $65,000 you face an additional AND consecutive one-year prison sentence. This additional sentence can be as high as four years if the property is worth more than $3.2 million. Additionally, embezzlement from an elder or dependent person is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

The defenses to embezzlement charges include claim of good faith, lack of criminal intent and false accusations/innocence. If you believe you were entitled to the property, didn’t specifically intend to deprive the owner of the property, or feel you have been falsely accused, an experienced criminal defense attorney in the state of California can help.

Kavinoky Law Firm

About Darren Kavinoky and The Kavinoky Law Firm.

Darren Kavinoky receives recognition over and over for his commitment to clients and for being a top California defense lawyer. The Los Angeles Magazine repeatedly regards him as a Super Lawyer , and the American Trial Lawyers Association highlighted him as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in California. Additionally, he is the legal analyst and special correspondent for the syndicated television program The Insider, and is a sought-after guest on shows that include Entertainment Tonight, Dr. Phil, NBC’s Today Show, and various programs on CNN and the Headline News Channel. Follow Darren on Twitter @DarrenKavinoky or

California Real Estate, Bank, Mortgage Fraud Attorney

In the wake of America’s mortgage crisis, federal and state officials are pouring vast resources into prosecution of real estate, bank, and mortgage fraud. Authorities are under enormous pressure to arrest, indict, convict, and ultimately sentence individuals involved in real estate crime, and this trend will likely continue for several years to come.

Fortunately, the experienced California defense lawyers of The Kavinoky Law Firm are here to help. A skilled California attorney from The Kavinoky Law Firm can mount an aggressive defense to any real estate, mortgage or bank fraud charge.  We stand strong between the accused and the government and popular opinion.

Authorities focusing on alleged frauds and schemes in the real estate business sometimes sweep up innocent victims in their net.  Recent financial schemes victimize individuals and businesses, including low-income families lured into home loans they cannot afford, legitimate lenders saddled with over-inflated mortgages, and honest real-estate investors fleeced out of their investment dollars.  Officials are relentless in their pursuit of indictments in this area of the law, and they simply “follow the money.”  Some common real estate fraud schemes include:

  • Property Flipping — A buyer pays a low price for property, and then resells it quickly for a much higher price. This is perfectly legal unless it involves false statements to the lender, or another type of fraud.
  • Two Sets of Settlement Statements — One settlement statement is prepared and provided to the seller, accurately reflecting the true selling price of the property. A second fraudulent statement is given to the lender, showing a highly inflated purported selling price. The lender provides a loan in excess of the property value, and after the loans are settled, the proceeds are divided among the conspirators.
  • Fraudulent Qualifications — Real estate agents, loan officers, and others assist buyers who would not otherwise qualify, by fabricating their employment history, credit record, or income.  This is perhaps the most common type of real estate fraud currently under investigation.

The income earned from these types of real estate fraud schemes is often laundered to hide the money from the government.  Money laundering is simply a process of trying to make illegally earned income appear to be legitimately earned.  IRS and FBI agents follow the money and collect evidence to prove applicable tax and/or money laundering violations.

Once they have obtained the evidence, the agents forward their investigation to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.  Even if a criminal investigation is not warranted, the government can take civil action.  For example, each year the IRS audits thousands of tax returns involving individuals and entities associated with the real-estate business.

Money Laundering and Tax Crimes – Individuals targeted in real estate fraud investigations invariably find themselves accused of money laundering and tax crimes.  Authorities will move quickly to seize assets, order assets to be forfeited, freeze bank accounts, and attempt, quite simply, to put the accused individual completely out of business.  Keep in mind that all this occurs before a finding of guilt by either a judge or jury.

Don’t let this happen to you!  If you are being investigated, or if you or a loved one has been formally charged with any sort of real estate crime, call an experienced attorney from The Kavinoky Law Firm immediately.  Once we receive your case, our team of lawyers and staff will aggressively confront the government on your behalf, and fight for your rights.  If you’re facing a charge of real estate fraud, money laundering, bank fraud, or mortgage fraud, contact a knowledgeable California attorney from The Kavinoky Law Firm today for a free consultation.

Types of White Collar Crimes and Cases

White collar crimes are those that are commonly attached to businesses and business employees. The most common type of California theft is white collar crime. The difference between regular theft and white collar theft is that force or fear may be used in the commission of a regular theft, or regular theft may refer to unsophisticated, crude, impulsive acts. White collar crime is different, and usually refers to criminal acts that are more sophisticated or complex. This crime is the use of trickery or fraud rather than force or fear to convince an individual to entrust property to the thief. Typically, the victim of white collar crime is not the subject of violence, and he or she is generally not in fear of violence when unknowingly giving property to a thief.

Common forms of white collar crimes include larceny by false pretenses, embezzlement, trickery, and fraud. These are known as the common law offenses. However, there are wide-ranging white collar crimes that extend beyond the state of California and go into the realm of federal regulation.

A person accused of using unfair and deceptive trade practices can be prosecuted on either the state or the federal level, since California’s unfair and deceptive practices statutes draw heavily on the federal statutes. Unfair and deceptive trade practices cover such acts as false advertising. These statutes were developed with the essential purpose of protecting the consumer.

Securities and commodities are regulated by both the state of California and the federal government. Today, most of California’s rules mirror those of the federal law. For the most part, the Securities Exchange Acts that exist today are, in effect, protections for the integrity of the market. These protections create an even playing field for investors, which results in an open exchange of information. In other words, people who want to invest in the market do not have to be business insiders to make decent investment decisions. For this reason, audits and profit reports must be true and accurate. Further, insider trading is illegal. Insider trading is the buying, selling or trading of stocks based on information that is not known to the public. It is completely illegal for someone to trade stocks based on non-public information.

Securities laws are often extremely complex, and can hinge on the smallest details. It takes an extremely detailed and experienced lawyer to fight for a client against the resources of the state’s Attorney General or the SEC. The Kavinoky Law Firm can help now. Call for a free consultation and case evaluation.

Other white collar crimes include tax violations, regulatory, health, or environmental violations. Anti-trust is another white collar crime, but it is not exactly the type of crime a typical small business owner can commit. It is generally reserved for the giant corporations.

Fraudulently acquiring investments or business opportunities are white collar crimes. So is real estate fraud and construction fraud. While many of these crimes seem harmless, they are not. There are typically many victims who are left with nothing as the result of a white collar crime. The state or the federal governments are vigorous in prosecuting these crimes because they are trying to maintain the integrity in everyday business deals that the economy depends on. Therefore, it is crucial to find attorneys who will defend you more even vigorously than you will be prosecuted. The Kavinoky Law Firm will be of valuable assistance to you.