The Villages Resident Scams Snowbirds; Paying $42k in Restitution

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The Village News reports that a 65-year-old Villages resident was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to victims for scamming those snowbirds in a rental scheme. At the time of her 2018 arrest, the woman was residing in the Village of Tall Trees and accused of advertising her estranged-husband’s Village of Rio Ponderosa home for rent. She promised to rent out the home to several would-be tenants including those from Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even as far away as Canada.

The woman passed herself off as the owner of the property when she was soliciting renters. She was caught after several potential tenants contacted the Seniors vs. Crime office in The Villages complaining that they had put down deposits only to be told afterward that the home was not available. The woman was found guilty of organized fraud in Sumter County Court, placed on five years of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service in addition to paying $42,000.00 in restitution to the court. The same defendant was convicted of grand larceny in Orange County, New York back in 2009.

 

Florida Organized Fraud Law

The state of Florida has a statute that addresses organized fraud. Florida law makes it illegal for someone to use technology to communicate to victims with the intent to commit fraud, but also makes it illegal when communication through technology is not involved. Of note, the burden on the state is not to prove that the accused communicated, but rather that, at a minimum, he or she engaged in a scheme to defraud others to get something.

The state prosecutor does, however, have to prove the elements of organized fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. These include that the defendant was engaged in a scheme to defraud others, and he or she obtained property (or gained) from the scheme.

The law defines scheme to defraud as:

  • A systematic and continuous conduct with the intent to defraud one or more individuals, or
  • The intent to obtain property from one or more individuals through fraudulent or false pretenses, promises, representations, or willful misrepresentations of an act to be committed in the future.

Similarly, the law defines obtaining property as:

  • Depriving any individual – temporarily or permanently – of the right to property or a benefit of a property; or
  • Appropriation of another’s property to one ‘s own use or the use of any other individual who is not entitled to that property.

 

Penalties for Organized Fraud Conviction

Under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, organized fraud is ranked as a level 3. That being said, the punishment for a conviction of this crime depends upon the value of the property defrauded by the defendant. The monetary amount of the property is calculated either as its market value or, if this is not ascertainable, then its replacement value. The manner in which organized fraud is charged is as follows:

If the value of the property is:

  • Less than $20,000.00, it is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a monetary fine of $5,000.00;
  • More than $20,000.00 but less than $50,000.00, it is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a monetary fine of $10,000.00;
  • More than $50,000.00, it is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in jail and a monetary fine of $10,000.00;

Of note, the crime of grand theft is a lesser criminal offense that is included in organized fraud. If a prosecutor is unable to prove an ongoing scheme to defraud was in place, then he or she can still prosecute the defendant for grand theft.

Florida law makes it illegal for someone to use technology to communicate to victims with the intent to commit fraud...

Criminal Defense Help in The Villages

If you or someone you know Florida is facing criminal charges for organized fraud or any other offense, contact the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Bogin, Munns & Munns. With 40 years of experience, our lawyers are prepared to defend your rights.  Contact us today for your free criminal defense consultation.

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NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.

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