$200 million fraud scheme in tri-state area may make for a complex trial

On February 5, 18 people were charged and 13 arrested in Newark for purportedly stealing $200 million in what could be one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever handled by the United States Department of Justice. The defendants allegedly operated out of several different locations throughout New York and New Jersey, including Iselin, Hicksville, Jersey City and Staten Island.

Penalties for these fraud charges could potentially be very serious. If convicted, each defendant can face 30 years in prison as well as a $1 million fine.

About the criminal fraud enterprise

The enterprise allegedly involved a complex series of “”bust-out”” credit card cons involving creating a false identity and then using that identity to apply for several dozen credit cards, according to NBC News. One then maxes out the credit cards and stops using the identity.

Luxury goods, gold, and electronics were purportedly purchased through fraudulently obtained credit cards. The fraud ring was said to have centered on four jewelry stores in Jersey City that accepted purchases on the cards and received cash from merchant processors, which they wired overseas and stored in bank accounts.

Case exemplifies legal complexities

The problem with such an extensive fraud ring is that it is hard to prove that each member contributed in a similar fashion. Getting a solid conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and if people give conflicting accounts of potentially fraudulent activities, this will give rise to doubts in the jury’s mind. It may be that not all 18 members of the supposed ring were involved to the same degree.

According to New Jersey law, credit card fraud is an intent-based offense, meaning that the prosecution must show not only that an individual committed a particular act but that he or she did so with the intent to defraud. The relevant statute states that if a person makes “”any false statement in writing…with intent that it be relied on … for the purpose of procuring the issuance of a credit card,”” he or she is guilty.

From a criminal defense standpoint, it is important to keep in mind that these allegations, though severe, could be completely false. In the case of many of the members of the crime ring, they might not in fact have done work intending for it to be fraudulent. If evidence collected by the federal agents who made the arrests comes from disreputable sources, as in the Lucchese mob case in 1988, the entire ring could go free.

The defense for some of the convicted individuals may also be able to pin the blame on the ringleader, as in the 2012 case of a similar interstate fraud ring based in Minneapolis, which was also tried in a federal court. Two men were given guilty verdicts while two others went free due to lack of evidence for intent. Large cases like the alleged $200 million credit fraud scheme are often tried in federal courts because the alleged actions of the individuals occurred across state boundaries.

A criminal defense lawyer may help you defend yourself in court against charges of fraud. Fraud is a serious charge that requires certain evidence, and a lawyer experienced in defending fraud cases can your advocate.”