Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
A conspiracy is basically an agreement to commit a crime, with at least one act or step taken to try to commit the crime. The more formal definition is: an agreement between two or more persons to commit an illegal act, with at least one conspirator attempting to commit an overt act that would further the object of conspiracy.
Traditionally the use of the conspiracy statute is much more common in federal court, mostly due to the fact that federal prosecutions are more complex and involve many defendants. Some state statutes provide state prosecutors with a conspiracy-type charge, and in Texas this charge is “Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity.”
How A Conspiracy Charge Works
By definition, a conspiracy is an agreement, but merely being present is not sufficient to find a conspiracy, even if the persons just present know each other and have criminal records. A persons involved have to agree with the other co-conspirator(s), instead of just having knowledge of the conspirators’ plan or intention. There does not have to be any formality in creating a conspiracy, nor does a prosecutor have to prove that all conspirators formally agreed. The proof usually comes in the form of evidence that shows the persons’ planning and/or involvement.
The government may prove a conspiracy by words or active evidence, such as negotiations, documents of transactions, appearances at transactions, responsibility for collecting monies, photographs of the conspirators meeting, recorded conversations, etc.
For a plan to be a “conspiracy,” there has to be at least one “overt act” that is attempted. In other words, at least one person in the conspiracy has to try to complete an act that would further the conspiracy. One such act could be making plans with other conspirators, purchasing necessary equipment for the job, scheduling a meeting with others to complete an illegal act, making a financial transaction, etc.
If evidence is present that persons formed a conspiracy, then prosecutors can charge all “conspirators” involved, even if some persons have very little involvement, or a one-act involvement.
Whether or Not the Conspiracy is Successful Does Not Matter
If a prosecutor can prove that two or more persons agree to commit a crime, and they attempt at least one overt act, then these people can be charged with the crime of conspiracy. Even if the step, or overt act, taken to go forward with the conspiracy plan fails, the persons could be prosecuted for conspiracy because a conspiracy case does not depend on whether or not the persons actually complete the intended result.
Types of Fraud
The federal code that contains most federal criminal offenses, Title 18, lists Attempts and Conspiracy at Section 1349. That section reads that any person who conspires to commit any federal offense is guilty. This means that the government can charge a person for conspiring to commit another offense, such as mail fraud. The charges brought by the federal prosecutor, the U.S. Attorney, for conspiracy to commit fraud are most usually a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, or health care fraud.
Sometimes you hear about a person who may have committed insurance fraud, or another supposed fraud. Federal charges in those instances are usually fit into one of the statutes listed here, that is, mail fraud, bank fraud, or wire fraud.
The other type of federal conspiracy to commit fraud is Conspiracy to Defraud the United States. To conspire to defraud the United States usually means to cheat the U.S. government out of property or money, and it also can mean to obstruct a lawful governmental function by some type of misrepresentation or fraudulent act. This type of charge is often used for fraudulently using federal program monies, fraud involving a federal insured bank, or fraud related to federal land or other property.
A person under investigation needs to present favorable evidence to the U.S. Attorney in order to try to prevent prosecution, or to question the government’s evidence. Contact former federal prosecutor John Teakell, who can defend you against any fraud investigation or charge brought against you.