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Theft & fraud offenses

What is Fraud?

In the State of California fraud includes a number of acts involving everything from using deception for gain; making false statements or even making misrepresentations of fact to gain an unfair financial gain.


Many crimes, including many fraud crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. These crimes that can be charged as either or –are called wobbler offenses, meaning that prosecutors can charge them as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

Crimes Of Moral Turpitude

Many fraud offenses can be prosecuted on the state and federal levels—and note some of these crimes ae deemed as crimes of moral turpitude and thus subject immigrants to deportation and make it difficult for anyone to get employment.

Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud involves taking and dishonestly using another person’s credit card, debit card, or account information for personal gain and if someone signs for the card who is not the cardholder, can be charged with forgery.

*NOTE: Penalties for credit card fraud vary greatly depending on the value stolen.

If the amount stolen equals $950 or more, a person can be charged with grand theft and sentenced to up to one year.

If prosecuted federally, however, defendants can face up to 20 years in prison depending on the extent of the fraudulent acts

Theft and Fraud Crimes Include:

  • Auto theft
  • Bank fraud
  • Bribery
  • Burglary
  • Check fraud
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit card fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • False pretenses
  • Forgery
  • Grand theft
  • Health care fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Insider trading
  • Insurance fraud
  • Internet fraud
  • Larceny
  • Money laundering
  • Petty theft
  • Racketeering & RICO Act
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Robbery
  • Securities fraud
  • Shoplifting
  • Smuggling
  • Tax evasion
  • Tax fraud
  • Unlawful use of access cards

Theft-related charges in California can range from petty misdemeanors (like petty theft) to serious and violent felonies (like robbery).


Usually the prosecuting agency files a first petty theft conviction as a misdemeanor.
BUT, if you have a prior theft conviction, any later theft could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, according to the prosecutor’s judgment.

Grand thefts can be charged as felons or misdemeanors, with a felony charge carrying 16 months to three years in prison.

Please note a violent theft, like robbery, carjacking or grand theft of a firearm is always a felony and also counts as a strike under the three-strikes law. In addition, you’re much more likely to be charged with a felony as the value of the property rises, and face additional time on the sentence for thefts of $65,000 and above.


The prosecution must prove you intended to commit the theft in order to convict you — and intent is not that easy to prove. Sometimes the property stolen was actually yours or you had permission to use it, even if you were mistaken.

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