The weeks leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election were a doozy. There were accusations flying from every direction: Donald Trump had been accused of fraud, as well as sexually assaulting women; Hillary Clinton was accused of breaking the law with her email scandal; and states were being accused of having rigged elections.
Minnesota was certainly a target of the latter accusations, and Minnesota citizens weren’t so fast to dismiss the allegations. After Donald Trump brought up rigged election concerns, 43% of Minnesota citizens polled by the Star Tribune answered that “his criticism [was] on target.”
Since his win, though, Trump has been unusually quiet on the subject. Perhaps it is because he has had more time to look into the claims he was making. In short, rigged elections and rampant voter fraud during elections is a myth in not just in Minnesota, but every single state of our union.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other types of fraud crimes. While voter fraud has been getting the bulk of the attention lately, it is those types of criminal acts that Minnesota law enforcement is constantly on the lookout for.
What Is Minnesota’s Definition of “Fraud?”
Fraud crimes are a subsection of white collar crimes, or criminal acts that don’t deal in violence, but in the unlawful handling of money or property.
The illegal act is committed when an individual (or organized group) causes damage to another through intentional misrepresentation. That’s the simple definition. According to Minnesota law, however, the following must happen for an action to be legally considered fraud:
- a false misrepresentation of a past or present material fact;
- knowledge by the person making the false assertion that it is false, or ignorance of the truth of the assertion;
- an intention to induce the claimant to act or to justify the claimant to act;
- the claimant must have been induced to act or justified in acting in reliance on the representation; and
- the claimant must suffer damage proximately caused by the misrepresentation.
Under Minnesota law, fraud is also commonly regarded as a theft crime, depending on whether or not property was permanently and unlawfully removed.
What Are Some Common Types of Fraud in Our Minnesota?
Despite there being so many bullet points, the above conditions are still pretty vague. They do not specify what damages or what type of misrepresentation or assertions must be presented to victims.
This is by design. There are a lot of different acts that could be considered fraud, and there are a lot of different types of fraud crimes in Minnesota statutes. Here are just a few of the most common:
- Financial Transaction Card (Credit or Debit Card Fraud)
- Securities Fraud
- Identity Theft
- Medial Assistance Fraud
- Insurance Fraud
- State Lottery Fraud
- Lawful Gambling Fraud
- Residential Mortgage Fraud
Understanding the Penalties for Fraud
Minnesota law lays out the penalties for most fraud cases under the category for theft. These penalties are based on the value of the goods that were stolen or fraudulently obtained. The contents (whether the property was a controlled substance, firearm, a motor vehicle, and so on) and where they came from may also play a part in sentencing.
If the individual convicted on theft or fraud crimes has prior convictions, there will also be enhanced sentencing. Here is how penalties are broken down in the law:
- $500 or less: up to 90 days in prison; fines of up to $1,000
- Between $500 and $1,000: up to one year in prison and fines of up to $3,000
- Between $1,000 and $5,000: up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000
- Between $5,000 and $35,000: up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000
- Over $35,000: up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000
In addition to the above penalties, individuals may also be sentenced to pay restitution to their victims. For example, Minnesota law says that individuals who commit insurance fraud may have to pay back the amount of money that was stolen in addition to the criminal penalties for theft.
It is also important to remember that these are just Minnesota’s penalties for fraud. If fraud crimes involve victims from different states, or if it is committed through a federal institution (for example, the United States Postal Service), you may be sent to federal court and face federal penalties.
If you have been charged on fraud or other white collar crimes, be sure to contact a Minnesota defense lawyer with a successful track record in these types of cases.
No two fraud crimes are exactly the same. There are many defense strategies that can help to mitigate your sentence, but to receive the best possible outcome you need to understand which one is most likely to help in your specific situation.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2016), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2016), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2016).