Criminal charges for fraud in South Carolina cover a wide range of unlawful conduct involving the taking of money or property from others using deception or trickery.
Although there is no single criminal charge called “fraud,” there are many, many South Carolina statutes that criminalize specific types of fraud. Some of the more common charges that we will cover below include:
- Check fraud,
- Insurance fraud,
- Tax evasion,
- Breach of trust with fraudulent intent,
- Embezzlement of public funds,
- Obtaining property by false pretenses,
- Financial identity fraud, and
- Credit card fraud.
What are Criminal Charges for Fraud?
“Fraud” covers a wide range of conduct that could be 1) the basis for a civil lawsuit to recover stolen funds and 2) the basis for state or federal criminal charges.
Fraud Charges in South Carolina
Basically, it is a form of theft or larceny. If someone steals another person’s property in South Carolina, they can be charged with petty or grand larceny. If someone takes another person’s money using force, they can be charged with strong-armed robbery, and, if they use a deadly weapon, they can be charged with armed robbery.
But what if someone takes money or property using trickery or deceit?
In addition to white collar federal crimes like wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy, there are a host of South Carolina state-level criminal charges for fraud and financial crimes that cover circumstances where someone obtains property or money through artifice, trickery, or schemes.
“Check fraud” is a criminal offense in South Carolina that is most often used when someone writes a check and there are insufficient funds to cover it or the bank account has been closed.
SC Code § 34-11-60 clearly says that a person must have the intent to defraud when they write the check. Nevertheless, it is often charged based solely on a bounced check, with no evidence of the defendant’s intent.
Although it is a criminal offense that carries up to 30 days in jail, in most cases, check fraud charges are about the circuit solicitor’s office helping businesses get paid. A warrant is issued, the check writer is threatened with a criminal conviction, and then the warrant is dismissed once the check writer pays the full amount of the check and court costs.
As with breach of trust charges in South Carolina, fraudulent check charges are often used as a way to avoid the hassle of a civil lawsuit by using the criminal justice system to force payment of a debt.
You can be charged with insurance fraud under SC Code § 34-11-60 if you:
- Knowingly make a false statement or misrepresentation about an insurance claim, or
- Assist, solicit from, or conspire with someone else with an “intent to injure, defraud, or deceive,” to make a false statement or misrepresentation about an insurance claim.
The penalties depend on the dollar value of the “economic advantage or benefit received.” In addition to substantial fines, a conviction can result in:
- First offense less than $1000 – a misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail,
- First offense $1000 or more but less than $10,000 – a misdemeanor that carries up to three years in prison,
- First offense $10,000 or more but less than $50,000 – a felony that carries up to five years in prison,
- First offense $50,000 or more – a felony that carries up to ten years in prison, or
- Any second offense – a felony that carries up to ten years in prison.
State Tax Evasion
If you willfully evade paying your fair share of taxes, you could be charged with both federal and state court offenses.
The crime of tax evasion in South Carolina state court is covered by SC Code § 12-54-44, and includes criminal penalties for a broad range of felony and misdemeanor offenses including:
- Willfully evading the payment of taxes or assessments,
- Tax professionals who willfully fail to collect, account for, and pay over taxes,
- Failure to pay an estimated tax, make a return, or supply information,
- Providing a fraudulent or false statement,
- Providing fraudulent or false information to an employer for tax withholding purposes,
- Committing perjury on a written declaration, or
- Assisting someone else to commit tax evasion.
Breach of Trust with Fraudulent Intent
Breach of trust in South Carolina is defined in SC Code § 16-13-230 and South Carolina appellate opinions.
“Breach of trust with fraudulent intent” is South Carolina’s term for embezzlement – when a person in a fiduciary, or trust, relationship converts funds or property to their own use and they had a fraudulent intent when the money or property was taken.
Embezzlement of Public Funds
Embezzlement of public funds in South Carolina is defined in SC Code § 16-13-210, and covers situations where an officer or public official “charged with the safekeeping, transfer, and disbursement of public funds” is accused of taking those funds for their personal benefit.
Obtaining Property by False Pretenses
“Obtaining signature or property by false pretenses” is another common criminal charge for fraud in South Carolina.
SC Code § 16-13-240 makes it a crime to use false pretenses or misrepresentation to 1) obtain someone else’s signature to a written instrument (a document transferring title, for example) or 2) to obtain “any chattel, money, valuable security, or other property, real or personal,” with the intent to defraud and cheat the person of their property.
Forgery is another common type of fraud charged in South Carolina state courts. A person can be charged with forgery under SC Code § 16-13-10 if they:
- Create a false document,
- Publish or use a false document,
- Create or make changes to a record or land plat, or
- Help someone else create or use a false document or create or make changes to a record or land plat.
Financial Identity Fraud
Financial identity fraud or identity theft is another South Carolina criminal charge for fraud that is found in SC Code Section 16-13-510 and covers situations where a person:
- Without consent, “obtains or records identifying information which would assist in accessing the financial records of” another person or
- Without consent, accesses or attempts to access the other person’s financial resources using their personal identifying information.
The State must also prove that the defendant intended to use the information to take the alleged victim’s financial resources, to come up with a plan to defraud the victim, or to use the information to obtain a signature or property by false pretenses (a separate criminal charge for fraud – see above).
Credit Card Fraud
The SC Financial Transaction Card Crime Act is an entire chapter of the South Carolina Code devoted to defining criminal offenses related to financial transaction cards. Some of the more common credit card fraud offenses include:
- Financial transaction card theft,
- Financial transaction card forgery,
- Financial transaction card fraud,
- Possession of financial transaction card forgery devices, and
- Receiving goods or services fraudulently obtained.
Questions About Criminal Charges for Fraud in South Carolina?
If you have been charged with or if you believe you are under investigation for criminal charges for fraud in South Carolina, get help from an experienced South Carolina white collar criminal defense lawyer immediately – before you make any statements or talk to the police.
The criminal defense lawyers at Seaton Law Office will investigate the allegations, answer your questions, and do everything legally and ethically possible to get your case dismissed, win your case at trial, or find a resolution that is fair and reasonable.
Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.
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