Fraud cases are often dealt with at a federal level, with the authorities spending immense amounts of time and money on them. If the authorities bring a case against you, they may look to make an example of you.
You might consider a fraud accusation less consequential than one for a violent crime, yet the penalties can actually be harsher. Unfortunately, innocent people can easily get caught up in fraud charges when the companies for which they work mislead investors, partners and other stakeholders. Anybody who produced reports or documents that enabled that fraud can ultimately be accused of being participatory.
You are not guilty merely by association
Even if the company you work for defrauded someone, it does not mean you did. There are several key elements prosecutors need to show if they intend to charge you with fraud. If you can show that any of the following apply, you may be able to overturn the charges you face:
- The information you gave was reasonable: It is easy to evaluate information and say it is wrong with the benefit of hindsight. If you can show that others in your situation would have produced the same report, there is no reason to accuse you of fraud.
- You thought the information was valid: People are allowed to make mistakes. If you believe the information you passed to someone was accurate, that is not a fraud. You need to set out to deceive someone by feeding them the information you know to be inaccurate.
- The victim did not rely on your information: An investor made a wrong decision and is looking to blame you. Yet, if they had ten reports on a subject at their disposal, and nine said differently to yours, they will struggle to claim they relied on your information.
- There is no victim: Someone may be upset about the information you have given them, yet, if it did not cause them any financial damage, they could not claim fraud.
Fraud cases can be complex, and investigations can reach workers at all levels of a company. If accused, it is crucial to investigate all defense options and protect your professional reputation and personal freedom.