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Fraud Offences Articles

What Happens For A First Offence Of Bank Fraud?

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If you or a loved one are facing a first time bank fraud allegation, it is natural to have questions, be experiencing an overwhelming mix of emotions, and to feel a strong sense of urgency to start building your legal defence. Bank fraud is a very serious offence and – unsurprisingly – it is rigorously prosecuted in the English courts. If you have been involved in, or accused of being involved in, a bank fraud, promptly appointing an accomplished bank fraud defence solicitor is vital. This article unravels the complexities of facing a bank fraud offence for the first time – outlining the points the prosecution must prove, providing some examples of the offence, explaining sentencing for first-timers, and weighing imprisonment risks. We also outline how to get in touch with our experienced bank fraud team if you need more help.

What is the offence of bank fraud?

Bank fraud is an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. It involves dishonestly making false representations or failing to disclose information to obtain funds, overdrafts, loans, or credit from a bank. Bank fraud itself is not a separate offence – rather, bank fraud is merely one area of fraud that is covered by provisions under that Act.

Sections 2 and 3 of the Fraud Act 2006 create offences for fraud by false representation and fraud by failing to disclose information. These provisions apply to bank fraud.

To prove bank fraud, the prosecution generally must establish:

  • The defendant made false representations or failed to disclose pertinent information to the bank.
  • They acted dishonestly, knowing the falsity of their representations.
  • They intended to make a gain or expose the bank to a loss through their deception.

Bank fraud carries penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or unlimited fines depending on the severity of the offence and the harm caused. Prosecutions typically occur in the Crown Court given the complexity and seriousness of bank fraud cases. Sentencing will account for factors like the value of funds obtained and sophistication of the deception.

What are some examples of bank fraud?

Examples of this offence include:

  • Submitting false information on loan or credit applications to obtain funds.
  • Using forged or stolen documents like pay stubs and bank statements to get loans approved.
  • Bribing bank officials to sanction loans that would ordinarily be declined.
  • Syphoning off money from accounts into which a bank has mistakenly transferred funds.
  • Hacking into bank systems to inflate account balances or transfer funds illegally.
  • Depositing fraudulent checks drawn on accounts with insufficient funds.
  • Failure to disclose assets and liabilities on applications for credit facilities.
  • Engineering transfers out of accounts without account holder knowledge or approval.
  • Applying for and using multiple credit cards with no intention of making repayments.
  • Using stolen or cloned debit/credit cards for purchases or cash withdrawals.
  • Falsifying invoices or purchase orders submitted to banks for payment against credit lines.
  • Money laundering by obscuring illegally obtained money through a web of bank transactions.

What happens if you are suspected of committing bank fraud in the UK?

If you are suspected of bank fraud in the UK, you are most likely to face investigation and potential prosecution under the Fraud Act 2006, regardless of the type of actions or activities that led to the allegation being made.

Here’s a general outline of what could happen:

  • Initial investigation – if bank fraud is suspected, the bank and police will initiate an investigation. This may involve examining records, account statements, application forms and other evidence. You may be interviewed under caution where anything you say could be used as evidence later. Having a solicitor present is advisable.
  • Arrest or voluntary interview – you could be arrested or asked to voluntarily attend an interview at a police station. Even if voluntary, this is serious and may result in charges. Legal representation is recommended.
  • Charging decision – after investigating, authorities will consult the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on whether to charge you. They will consider if there is sufficient evidence and if it is in the public interest.
  • Court process – if charged, your case may be tried in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court before a jury.
  • Sentencing – if convicted, the court will consider various factors when deciding your sentence. While maximum penalties depend on the offence, non-custodial sentences are possible for first offences depending on circumstances. Potential options include fines, community service, or suspended sentences.

Bank fraud is a very serious crime and, if convicted, you are likely to face equally serious consequences in your personal and professional life. For this reason, getting an experienced bank fraud solicitor on board as early as possible in the charging and prosecution process is critical.

What is the sentence for bank fraud in the UK?

Bank fraud is prosecuted under the Fraud Act 2006 and various other financial services laws, if applicable. With common examples of bank fraud including falsifying loan applications, using stolen credit card details, setting up dummy bank accounts, and impersonating customers – all of which having impacts not only on the bank but on banking security more generally – the courts are keen to crack down on such crimes through harsh punishments. The maximum sentence for bank fraud under the Fraud Act 2006 is 10 years’ imprisonment.

Aggravating factors like large scale organised fraud, losses in the millions, targeting vulnerable customers, or abuse of position can significantly increase sentences. Mitigating factors, such as showing remorse, having otherwise exemplary character, or experiencing mental illness, may reduce them. Additional penalties can include confiscation of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also imposes heavy fines and bans individuals from working in financial services. Banks themselves face large fines for failures in anti-fraud controls. Customers are refunded for unauthorised frauds.

Are there any defences to bank fraud?

Here are some potential defences that can be raised in response to allegations of bank fraud:

  • Lack of intent – the prosecution must prove that you had dishonest intent and willfully engaged in fraudulent activities. If you can demonstrate that you had an honest belief, made a mistake, or lacked the intention to deceive or defraud the bank, this could provide a defence.
  • Insufficient evidence – skilled defence lawyers will carefully examine the strength of the prosecution’s evidence, looking for inconsistencies, unreliable witnesses, or gaps in the evidence chain. Challenging the sufficiency of evidence and raising reasonable doubt can be an effective defence strategy.
  • Lack of knowledge – if you can show that you were unaware of the fraudulent nature of the transactions or were misled by others, this may serve as a defence. It is important to establish that you had no knowledge or involvement in the fraudulent activities.
  • Mistaken identity – if you can demonstrate that you were mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of the bank fraud, this can be a valid defence. It may involve providing evidence to prove that you were not present at the time of the fraudulent transactions or that someone else impersonated you.
  • Coercion or duress – if you can demonstrate that you were coerced or under duress to participate in the bank fraud, this may serve as a defence. It is crucial to establish that the coercion was immediate or imminent and that you had no reasonable alternative.
  • Procedural errors or violations – if there were procedural errors or violations of banking regulations during the investigation or in the handling of your case, it may be possible to challenge the validity of the charges. This defence focuses on any irregularities or violations that may have compromised the fairness of the investigation or prosecution.

Remember, bank fraud is a serious offence with severe legal consequences. If you are facing allegations of bank fraud, seeking immediate legal advice from an experienced attorney is essential to understand the specific defences available to you and to navigate the legal process effectively.

Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing bank fraud?

Predicting whether a first time bank fraud offence could result in imprisonment is difficult, as courts will weigh numerous factors when sentencing and there will be significant consideration of the public interest.

The seriousness and circumstances of the fraud are crucial considerations – large scale, complex schemes are viewed less sympathetically than smaller acts of opportunism. The losses caused to the bank and public confidence in banking will also be assessed, with substantial harm increasing chances of custody. Mitigating factors like previous good character, showing remorse, cooperating with investigations, and attempting to make amends, may assist first-time offenders in arguing against prison. That said, aggravating factors like acting out of greed, abusing a position of trust, or trying to conceal the fraud point towards harsher sentences.

While some minor first offences may lead to suspended sentences, judges are generally reluctant to avoid custody for deliberate bank frauds given the gravity and consequences. Those facing prosecution should obtain expert legal advice to understand realistic prospects of imprisonment based on precedents for comparable cases. An experienced fraud defence lawyer can strongly present mitigation arguments to potentially avoid prison.

Where to get further help

Facing allegations or prosecution for bank fraud is hugely stressful. Expert guidance from the earliest stages is key to protecting your interests. For first time offenders, charges can even be dropped pre-trial through skilled negotiation. Contact Stuart Miller Solicitors today for a free case consultation.

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