False Pretenses (Va. Code 18.2-178) can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense in Fairfax County, Northern Virginia, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia, depending on the level of the alleged fraud. Offenses involving less than $200 in fraud are misdemeanors, while those offenses involving $200 or more of fraud are felonies.
Given the seriousness of this crime, anyone charged with a false pretense offense needs to consult with a lawyer that has not only previously handled false pretenses cases, but who also has the judgment, skill, and reputation to obtain the best possible resolution of the matter.
What Is False Pretenses in Virginia?
The general false pretense crime is found in Virginia Code 18.2-178. The statute creates two false pretenses crimes: (1) obtaining property by false pretenses and (2) obtaining a signature by false pretenses.
Obtaining Property by False Pretenses
In order to obtain a conviction for false pretenses, the prosecutor must prove that the accused intended to defraud the victim, that an actual fraud was committed, that false pretenses were used to commit the crime (i.e., a misrepresentation about an existing fact), and that the false pretenses caused the victim to turn over the property. The victim must turn over both title and possession for the crime of false pretenses to occur.
Obtaining property by false pretenses is punishable as larceny. Therefore, misdemeanor false pretenses is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Felony false pretenses is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Obtaining a Signature by False Pretenses
To obtain a conviction for false pretenses based upon obtaining a signature by false pretenses, the prosecutor must prove that the accused intended to defraud the victim and that he obtained the signature of a person to a writing based upon a misrepresentation.
Obtaining a signature by false pretense is punishable as a Class 4 felony. A Class 4 felony is punishable by a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Other False Pretenses & Frauds
Other laws establish other types of false pretenses and frauds that are crimes in our state. These crimes include:
- False statements to obtain property or credit (Va. Code 18.2-186): False statements to obtain property or credit can be both a misdemeanor and a felony depending on the value and is punishable by 12 months to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Contractor/construction fraud (Va. Code 18.2-200.1): If a person fails to perform on a promise for construction, in return for advances of money, merchandise, or other thing of value, with fraudulent intent, the person taking the money will be guilty of the larceny of such money. As such, the offense will be punished as larceny with a maximum prison term of 12 months or 20 years, depending on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony, and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Misuse of public assets (Va. Code 18.2-112.1): Misuse of public assets is a Class 4 felony punishable by 2– to–10 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
- Fraudulent entries in accounts by officers or clerks of financial institutions (Va. Code 18.2-113): Fraudulent entries in accounts by officers or clerks of financial institutions are a Class 4 felony punishable by 2–to–10 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
- Fraudulent conversion or removal of property subject to lien or title (Va. Code 18.2-115): Fraudulent conversion or removal of property subject to lien or title is punishable as larceny; therefore, it's punishable by either a maximum prison term of 12 months or 20 years, depending on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony, and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Fraudulent conversion or removal of lease personal property (Va. Code 18.2-118): Fraudulent conversion or removal of lease personal property is punishable as larceny; therefore, it's punishable by either a maximum prison term of 12 months or 20 years, depending on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony, and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Pyramid promotional schemes (Va. Code 18.2-239): Every person who contrives, prepares, sets up, operates, advertises, or promotes any pyramid promotional scheme shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, it's likely that a person involved in such as scheme would be charged with one or more felony offenses as well.
- Money laundering (Va. Code 18.2-246.3): Any person who knowingly conducts a financial transaction where the person knows the property involved in the transaction represents the proceeds of an activity which is punishable as a felony is guilty of money laundering. Money laundering is punishable by imprisonment up to 40 years and a fine of up to $500,000.
People often want to know, "What is the average jail time a person receives for a conviction of false pretenses?" The answer depends on a number of different factors and should be discussed with your attorney.
Why You Need a Virginia False Pretenses Defense Lawyer
Manikas Law, LLC will ensure that the charges against you in Fairfax or Northern Virginia are fully examined and that all evidence is obtained. In these cases, witness testimony and facts are crucial. Our firm performs sound analysis of all evidence and possesses essential trial strategies to provide you with the best possible defense.
To speak with a Virginia false pretenses criminal defense lawyer about a charge in Fairfax County, Prince William County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Alexandria, or elsewhere in Northern Virginia, contact Manikas Law, LLC by phone or email to schedule an appointment.