Prosecution of Fraud Cases in DC

The following is excerpted from an interview with Jason Kalafat, a fraud attorney in the District of Columbia.

What does the prosecution need to prove in a fraud case?

Jason Kalafat: In a fraud case, the government must prove that the defendant engaged in some form of scheme or course of conduct specifically with the intent to obtain property or benefits from some other person or some other agency using some kind of falsehood or some kind of fraudulent pretense. The attempt to do so in and of itself is a felony charge in the District of Columbia; that would be fraud in the second degree. If the fraudulent conduct is successful – if it actually goes through and benefits or property is received – then it is considered fraud in the first degree. In either case, the government is going to have to show that the defendant knowingly and intentionally engaged in a course of conduct to get these benefits or property using false information.

What types of evidence are typically used in prosecuting a fraud case?

Jason Kalafat: In a fraud case, we typically see a lot of documentary evidence. The government will subpoena bank records, any kind of credit applications, benefit applications, and things of that nature to establish the link between the defendant and the benefits or property that were sought. They will oftentimes execute search warrants on the defendant’s home, car, or any other property they may have because they want to obtain any other documentary evidence that they can to show that the defendant was the person engaged in this conduct and the defendant was doing so fraudulently. Oftentimes a fraud case will involve the defendant using fictitious names or fictitious information, so the government will want to get the documents showing that what the defendant did was actually inaccurate and knowingly so. We will oftentimes see subpoenaed bank records and other documents in a fraud case. If applicable, the government will also try to see if they can obtain video from either a retail store, an ATM machine, or anything of that nature showing that the person who was using a bank card that wasn’t theirs is, in fact, the defendant because that is captured on video. Oftentimes the government will be seeking those kinds of video evidence as well.

What makes the process of fraud cases unique?

Jason Kalafat: Fraud cases involve much more documentary evidence as well as much more use of the government’s subpoena powers than in other types of cases. Fraud cases typically involve more than one law enforcement agency and also typically involve a decision-making process about in which court the case will be brought. Many other types of criminal cases are more straightforward in the sense that they are only state or they are only federal with regards to jurisdiction, so there is no decision-making process that the defense can actually influence in that regard. A fraud case depends upon the exact type of conduct. The government may be making a decision as to which jurisdiction to file the case in and a good defense attorney can actually influence that decision to the benefit of the client.