You violate the California fraud and theft laws every time you engage in an act that results in an undeserved or unfair benefit for you or causes loss to another person. Most people commit fraud for financial gain. Fraud perpetrators also commit the crime to cover their actions and escape criminal charges.

California law defines theft as obtaining property by larceny, embezzlement, or false pretense with the intent to deprive the property owner of the property temporarily or permanently. The type of theft charge you might face depends on the value of the stolen property. The standard theft charges under California law include shoplifting, petty theft, grand theft, burglary and robbery.

Many theft offense convictions, even if charged as felonies, may be reduced to misdemeanors and expunged after successful completion of probation.

Many fraud and theft offenses, whether prosecuted under Federal or State law, carry severe immigration consequences depending on the amount of jail imposed upon conviction and on the value of the item(s) stolen. It is essential to have an attorney who knows how to help you understand and avoid immigration consequences when defending you against criminal fraud and theft offenses, or you could face deportation and be barred from entering the United States.

Fraud Explained

According to California law, fraud is the misrepresentation of facts by an institution or a person, making the perpetrator receive the undeserved benefit while the victim suffers harm or loss. Typically, the intention of fraud is to gain financial benefits and get away from criminal liability, but it can also involve the transfer of official favors or authority. Fraud offenses are also called white-collar offenses and involve some degree of breach of trust or deceit.

California law prosecutes a wide range of fraud cases, some of which are unrelated to evading criminal charges or realizing a financial gain. Fraud crimes are crimes of moral turpitude under California law. This means that a fraud conviction could have adverse immigration consequences.

California law prosecutes fraud offenses aggressively. The crimes are often non-violent but can lead to severe punishments, including lengthy jail terms, hefty fines, and collateral repercussions beyond the statutory sentence. The applicable penalty depends on the amount of money involved.

Fraud offenses are violations of both California State and Federal laws. Therefore, you could face punishment from Federal or State courts, depending on the type of fraud you commit. If you face fraud charges, it is crucial to have an experienced attorney who knows Federal and State legal proceedings to assist you with these matters.

White-Collar Fraud Offenses

White-collar offenses in California are non-violent offenses that constitute embezzlement, health care fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, and extortion. Individuals holding special positions of power often commit these offenses. Both the Federal Government and the California State Government can prosecute white-collar fraud offenses. Usually, fraud offenses are prosecuted by the California Attorney General, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the local

District Attorney's Office.

White-collar fraud offenses in California are prosecuted like other criminal offenses; they trigger similar protections and legal defenses. However, the theories and the legal principles applicable to fraud crimes are more complex because of the evidence presented in the case. The common white-collar fraud offenses in California include PC 186.10, money laundering; PC 550, insurance fraud; PC 530, identity theft; PC 118, perjury; PC 529, false impersonation; and passing bad checks PC 476 (a), among others. There Prosecution can also add “White Collar Sentence Enhancements” to the base criminal charges, e.g., if the value of the fraud exceeds $100,000 or $500,000, which add significant prison time you would have to serve.

Internet Fraud

Also known as cybercrime, internet fraud is a major source of criminal and law enforcement activity in California. This offense is not a single offense but a blanket term that describes various fraud offenses involving computers or the internet. Some of these offenses can be charged by Federal or California State Prosecutors. Internet fraud falls into three categories, which include:
• Accessing a computer or computer data without permission
• Fraudulent schemes carried out using the internet or e-mail
• Using the internet or e-mail to obtain sensitive information like credit card information or social security numbers

Welfare Fraud

According to California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 10980, it is illegal to receive welfare benefits you do not deserve. You could also face welfare fraud charges if you illegally distribute or collect welfare benefits. This offense could also involve routine fraud activities like giving false information to obtain welfare benefits. The punishment for welfare fraud differs greatly depending on the part of the process you violated and the facts of your case.

Forging Deeds

According to Penal Code Section 115 of the California law, it is an offense to knowingly file a false or forged document, particularly a trust deed or a real estate deed. This fraud could involve illegally transferring home ownership to someone else without permission. Under California law, this is a felony offense that could lead to a jail term of sixteen months, two, or three years. You could also face a fine that does not exceed $10,000.

Securities Fraud

Securities fraud involves some business transaction in which you receive some stake or ownership in a company. For instance, this could include things like investments and stocks. In addition, this crime can involve making false statements during a transaction, presenting misleading behavior when selling off or buying securities, and selling off securities that do not meet qualification terms. Generally, you could commit securities fraud by not properly disclosing information about securities or failing to fill out the proper paperwork. The information that pertains to fraudulent activity involving corporate securities can be accessed under the California Corporate Securities Law of 1968. There are also Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigations and prosecutions involving corporate fraud and misdealing.

Senior Fraud

Senior fraud in California is part of elderly abuse. This offense is covered under Penal Code Section 368 of the California law, where an elderly person endures financial abuse. Often, senior fraud happens via various fraudulent schemes. Elderly people are often taken advantage of because of their age for financial gain. Senior fraud is a wobbler offense. If the court finds you guilty, you could face a jail term of one year jail to five years in state prison. You could also face a fine of $1000 to $10,000, depending on the facts of your case.

False Impersonation

It is unlawful under Penal Code Section 529 of the California law to falsely impersonate someone privately or publicly. This could include a case where you use someone else's identification to receive benefits or sign another person's name on a document. This offense could also be included in credit card fraud cases or any other fraud case in which you used someone else's name to gain benefits, with such cases being referenced as identity theft cases. The prosecutor could charge this offense as a misdemeanor or felony in California. Misdemeanors can only be punished by up to one year in jail, but you could face a fine up to $10,000 and a jail term of sixteen months up to five years in state prison for a felony conviction.

Theft Offenses

Theft is the unlawful and intentional taking of another person's property. Theft by false pretense involves obtaining another person's property by false representation or deception.

You could commit theft by embezzlement if you possess another person's property legally but later convert the property for illegal use.

In California, theft offenses are the most common criminal offenses prosecuted in the State's courts. California law defines theft as taking another person's property without their permission or consent, intending to deprive them of ownership.
There are distinct forms of theft offenses in California. If the court charges you with theft, you could face different theft charges like burglary, robbery, petty theft, grand theft, and shoplifting, among others.


Penal Code 459 defines burglary as illegally entering someone else's property without consent and intending to steal property. You could face burglary charges based on the type of structure you entered. Illegally entering a residential building with the intent to steal is first-degree burglary. This is a felony offense in California, and you could face a prison term of two, four, or six years in state prison.

Illegally entering a commercial building with the intent of stealing is a second-degree burglary. This is a wobbler offense under California law in which the prosecutor could seek to convict you of a misdemeanor or a felony. You could face a jail term that does not exceed one year in county jail for a misdemeanor. You could face a term of sixteen months, two, or three years in a California prison for a felony.


Penal Code Section 211 of the California law defines robbery as forcefully taking someone else’s property from their body or presence through threat or force. There are various forms of robbery, which depend on each case's circumstances. First-degree robbery includes robbery in an inhabited structure or robbing a passenger or a driver in a public vehicle. This is a felony crime that could lead to a sentence of three to nine years in a California prison. Other forms of robbery are second-degree robbery, whereby you could face a jail term of two, three, or five years in a California prison. Armed robbery, in which a weapon is used to threaten or take a person’s property by force carry sentence enhancements for use of deadly or dangerous weapons, and or infliction of great bodily harm, which greatly increase the sentence imposed by the court.

Petty Theft

Petty theft under PC484 and PC488 of the California law is the illegal taking of someone else's property valued up to $950. The offense of petty theft is often charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, if you have a prior petty theft charge, your charges could escalate to a felony based on the circumstances of your case. If the court convicts you of a misdemeanor petty theft, you could face the following penalties:
• A jail term that does not exceed six months
• A fine that does not exceed $1,000
• Restitution to the victim
• Three years of probation

Petty theft is a wobbler offense under California law. You could face misdemeanor or felony charges based on the prosecution, criminal history, and case details. You could face felony charges if you have prior petty theft convictions. For a felony petty theft conviction, you could face a jail term of sixteen months or one year in a California prison, restitution, or severe fines.


Shoplifting is the unlawful removal of merchandise from a store without paying for it. You could further the shoplifting offense by doing the following:
• Removing an item from its packaging and concealing it on or among other merchandise
• Altering a price tag
• Hiding or concealing an item on your person while still in the store
• Removing security tags or other theft-prevention devices

You will face the penalties for a shoplifting offense based on the value of the items you stole. For example, you would face misdemeanor petty theft charges if the value of the goods was less than $500. You could face a fine of $50 to $1,000 and a jail term of up to six months. You will face grand theft misdemeanor or felony charges if the value of goods you stole is more than $500. Grand theft punishment is often a jail term of up to one year in a county jail or a state prison.

Special Diversion Program For Shoplifting First Offenders

Shoplifting first offenders for misdemeanor thefts could have their case erased or dismissed upon court-ordered treatment or education program completion. You must plead '' guilty'' or ''no contest'' to enter the special diversion program. No charge will be entered if you complete community service, pay restitution, and complete a tailored treatment plan. The court could decide to offer the special diversion program opportunity based on discretion, even against the prosecuting attorney’s objection.

Grand Theft

Grand theft is defined under Penal Code 487 as the illegal taking of someone else's property valued at more than $950. In California, grand theft is charged as a wobbler offense based on the facts of your case, your previous history, and the value of the property you took. When deciding on a grand theft charge, the judge will also consider the severity of your offense.

If the prosecutor charges the crime as a misdemeanor, you will face a jail term that does not exceed one year. If the prosecutor charges the crime as a felony, you could face a jail term of between sixteen months and three years in a California prison. The court could also order you to pay fines and restitution to the victim. At times, a grand theft offense can be charged as a felony regardless of the monetary value of the property you stole. These could include cases involving stolen firearms, stolen vehicles, and other types of property.

Find A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Fraud and theft offenses are aggressively prosecuted, and most have severe penalties. If you or a loved one is facing fraud and theft charges, finding an experienced criminal attorney is an initial step you should take towards success in fighting your charges. At the Law Office Of Sara L. Caplan, we can help you strategize a strong defense to fight fraud and theft charges. We have qualified attorneys ready to help you no matter your situation. Call us at 310-550-5877 and talk to one of our Los Angeles attorneys.