WHAT IS AN INTERNET OR COMPUTER FRAUD CHARGE?

Have you been arrested or even just questioned by the police for an Internet or Computer Fraud related crime?

Many people make a big mistake. They think that just because they are innocent, they don’t need the best criminal defense lawyer.

The Court system is designed to be “adversarial”. This means the District Attorney represents the government, not you. He has no obligation to tell you if there are holes in his case or weaknesses in the evidence. If the police violated your rights or made mistakes, the DA won’t tell you that a motion to suppress evidence or even to dismiss the case is appropriate.

The Judge can’t take sides, so he or she can’t tell you what to do either. The only person in the system who is on your side is your defense attorney. So YES, you do need the best criminal defense lawyer.

You should also know that if you let the Judge appoint the Public Defender, then the Judge must order you to reimburse the county based on your ability to pay. You will be ordered to appear in court and waste many hours away from work and family. In addition, the Public Defender is under a lot of pressure to get rid of cases. They work for the government just like the District Attorney. We don’t have that pressure and so we can do whatever is best for you.

Our goal is to get the case dismissed or reduced. No one can predict the future, but we have a lot of success stories and just a few of them are on our web site. If you don’t hire us, you will never know if your case could have been dismissed or reduced.

WHY IS THIS A SERIOUS PROBLEM?

The consequences of any conviction can be life changing. Depending on the charge, you can face significant time in custody. There are significant sentencing enhancements based on the amount of the loss suffered by the alleged victim. If the alleged victim is elderly, there are additional complications and sentence enhancements.

If you are not a citizen, you can be deported, even if you are a “Lawful Permanent Resident” and have a “Green Card.” For some offenses, there can be a lifetime ban on owning or possessing firearms and ammunition. (This consequence is very tricky. The rules under state law are different from the rules under Federal law.)

Internet fraud is a general term that can cover a variety of cybercrimes carried out over the Internet or e-mail. These can range from identity theft, to health care fraud, to hacking onto a computer network or into someone’s personal computer, to sophisticated wire fraud scams such as “send me money to claim a prize.” Such offenses can be prosecuted under both state and federal law, depending upon the facts.

Under federal law, the controlling statute is 18 U.S.C. § 1343, which covers wire fraud and has now been generally understood to also cover cyber fraud, or fraud perpetrated by e-mail or the Internet.  Like many federal crimes, the punishment can be severe. A single e-mail can be sufficient for a conviction under this law. See for example United States v. Selby (2009) 557 F.3d 968, 979.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jane G. SELBY, Defendant-Appellant

The statute only requires that the defendant (1) had a scheme or plan to commit fraud of another person or organization, (2) specifically intended the fraud, and (3) used electronic communication to further this plan. 

It may go against your intuition, but a person can be convicted even if he is not able to actually trick the victim into handing over money or anything of value. California law has a few statutes that might be involved. The use of the Internet or e-mail to commit a fraud are covered under Business & Professions Code § 22948 (anti-phishing law) and Penal Code §§ 484e (credit card fraud), 502 (unauthorized computer access) and 530.5 (identity theft). Identity theft, under Penal Code § 530.5, is the most common form of Internet fraud or cybercrime. It involves the use of the Internet or e-mail to obtain the personal identifying information of another person with the specific intent to defraud that person of property or money, or even to use this information for any unlawful purpose.  

WHAT ARE POSSIBLE DEFENSES?

Each case is unique, but there are two sides to every story. Attorney Mark Cantrell has licensed private investigators who will perform an independent investigation to find evidence to help you.

The police officers who investigate these sorts of crimes are usually sophisticated in computer and internet matters, often referred to as “geeks with guns” by other officers. But they can make mistakes too and overstep their powers so that a motion to suppress evidence is appropriate. See this case as an example of the police improperly searching a smart phone.

WHY SHOULD YOU CALL US IMMEDIATELY? 

Many people are surprised to learn that the police are allowed to lie to the suspect in an attempt to obtain a confession or incriminating statements. This is just one more reason it is foolish to talk to the authorities. If you are under investigation call us immediately so we can protect you.

Sometimes the police will do what is called a “ruse phone call.” The alleged victim will call you on the phone and make statements about what happened and try to get you to make admissions.

Do NOT talk to the alleged victim or to anyone else about the case. The police are recording the call and many times defendants will say something just to try to smooth things over and those statements will later sound very incriminating.

Mark Cantrell is well known in the Riverside criminal defense community as a trial attorney with many successful cases to his credit. When you visit his office, he will be proud to show you newspaper articles about his cases - not paid advertisements.

The biggest mistake an accused person can make is to retain an attorney who does not do trials. The District Attorney has no reason to compromise and give you a break if your attorney is known as a “plea bargain” attorney.