What Is Federal Telemarketing Fraud?
Federal criminal telemarketing fraud charges can be brought against defendants who defraud a consumer by using a telemarketing scam. In addition, telemarketing fraud charges can also be filed in cases of email marketing scams. Telemarketing and email marketing fraud can be conducted through telephone calls, email, text messages, or online chat – all of these methods qualify as forms of telemarketing fraud.
Regardless of the technology at issue – telephone or email – these are serious charges that can result in major fines and long prison sentences. The federal government has established that under 18 U.S.C. § 2325, telemarketing or email marketing:
- means a plan, program, promotion, or campaign that is conducted to induce—
- purchases of goods or services;
- participation in a contest or sweepstakes;
- a charitable contribution, donation, or gift of money or any other thing of value;
- investment for financial profit;
- participation in a business opportunity;
- commitment to a loan; or
- participation in a fraudulent medical study, research study, or pilot study, by use of one or more interstate telephone calls, emails, text messages, or electronic instant messages initiated either by a person who is conducting the plan, program, promotion, or campaign or by a prospective purchaser or contest or sweepstakes participant or charitable contributor, donor, or investor.
The government addressed the issue of telemarketing fraud in 1991 by passing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which was intended to stymie telemarketers who were preying on consumers. Despite this, telemarketing fraud has actually increased since the passage of the Act due to advances in technology. The ubiquitous use of cell phones and the ability of telemarketers to use robocalling has telemarketing and email marketing fraud sweeping the globe. This doesn't mean that these violations go unpunished, though; the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Department of Justice take a serious stand against telemarketing and email marketing fraud.
What Will Happen if I am Convicted of Federal Telemarketing Fraud?
A person who is convicted of telemarketing fraud can be sentenced to prison time as well as required to pay restitution. The specific length of a prison sentence varies depending on several factors outlined in federal sentencing guidelines, including the convicted person's character and the age of the victim who has been scammed. Because elderly people are particularly susceptible to these types of scams, there is an additional five-year term that can be added to the offender's sentence.
When it comes to restitution, offenders may be required to repay their victims, even including forfeiting their own property in order to do so. This means that if you are convicted of federal criminal telemarketing fraud, you could lose your house or other property.
One additional point that you should be aware of is that the scam does not have to be successful in order for the perpetrator to be charged. A person who attempts to scam someone can be criminally charged, even if the intended victim does not fall for the scam or lose money.
How Can I Defend Myself Against Federal Telemarketing Fraud Accusations?
The defenses that are applicable to your case vary based on your circumstances. However, there are two defenses against telemarketing fraud that are commonly used. These are:
- No Intent – a defense based on a claim that the defendant did not intend to deceive the victim; and
- No Fraud – a defense based on a claim that the defendant did not make a fraudulent statement.
Telemarketing and email marketing are not in and of themselves automatically criminal. The crime occurs when the telemarketer attempts to defraud someone. This is where the first defense against telemarketing fraud charges can be raised: lack of criminal intent. A defendant can claim that they did not intend to defraud the victim but were simply telemarketing without an element of fraud; they did not intend to deceive the victim in order to gain something financially from that victim. In cases where the defendant claims a lack of fraud, they may assert that either they did not make a fraudulent statement or that, if they did make a fraudulent statement, it was mistaken or unintentional.
Where Will Your Case Be Heard?
Federal telemarketing fraud cases are brought in the Federal District Court. There are several District Courts in various regions of each state, including the Eastern and Middle District in Pennsylvania. If the crime occurred in Pennsylvania, the charges will be brought in the District Court in the region of the state where the crime occurred.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney to Help
Federal telemarketing fraud charges are serious charges that can result in major financial penalties and extensive prison time. These are not charges that you should attempt to fight alone. If you are being charged with telemarketing fraud, it is essential that you retain an experienced Federal Criminal Defense attorney to defend you. An experienced Federal Criminal Defense attorney will evaluate the case and help you to identify potential defenses and determine your best options, including the possibility of negotiating a plea bargain. You may be able to negotiate a more lenient sentence with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Lento Law Firm Is Your Best Choice
The legal process is complicated, but Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience in defending federal criminal telemarketing fraud charges. He knows the ins and outs of the system and will make sure that you receive the best possible defense. Whether you've been falsely accused or you made a mistake, you need an experienced attorney to look out for your best interests. If you are facing federal criminal telemarketing fraud charges, call Attorney Joseph D. Lento today for a consultation. You have the right to an attorney and a defense, and Joseph Lento will give you the representation that you need.