Federal law enforcement agencies that investigate white collar criminal schemes define  advance fee fraud as when an unwitting victim pays a sum of money to someone else, expecting that they’ll receive something that’s worth more than they paid, such as an investment, a contract, a gift, or even a loan, only to never receive anything for their money.


Typically in these types of cases you’ll see situations where the scammer will require their eventual victim to sign a contract so that they can then be introduced to someone else who will provide financing or some other similar service. The unfortunate situation here is that these contracts will be considered legal unless you can prove that the scammer was never going to provide financing.


It is true that prosecutors have a particularly difficult time proving that intention was present in the scam when it comes to advance fee fraud cases, but federal and state agencies will investigate all allegations, and the defendants in these cases could ultimately be charged with some fairly serious crimes. If you’ve been faced with an accusation of being involved with some sort of advance fee fraud scheme, you’re going to want to make sure that you get the proper legal counsel, someone who can get your charges reduced or even dropped altogether.


What are the different kinds of advance fee fraud?


In simple terms, advance fee fraud happens when someone makes a false promise in order to make someone else pay an upfront fee that will never be returned. Advance fee fraud is actually sort of a broad term, and there are four main charges that fall under this umbrella. These are offering to let the victim participate in some kind of special deal once they pay the advance fee, requesting that someone help you to remove money from a country that is politically unstable, promising to send either products or money or to even provide a service after the victim pays this advance fee, or requesting that someone help out law enforcement officers to catch thieves.


Advance fees go by many names, including taxes, an administrative fee, a handling fee, or even a membership fee. As we stated before, the FBI has established that some of the advance fee fraud schemes out there also include some sort of offer that the victim will be given financing options after they pay their initial fee. Typically the victim will then either pay the fee upfront or sign a contract that basically states that they will pay the fee once the source of their financing has been found. Once the scammer has received the funds, the victims will then tend to figure out that they’re actually not going to receive any financing. And again, prosecutors often have a hard time proving that the contract you signed was done fraudulently, so many of these contracts end up being considered legal.


What are the penalties for advance fee fraud?


As with many other similar crimes, prosecution here can only happen if the prosecutor is able to prove each element of the crime. When it comes to cases involving fraud, this will typically revolve around proving that the scammer intentionally misled someone, or to use other kinds of false statements in order to scam other people of their money.


If somehow the prosecutor is able to prove this crime, then there are actually several fraud charges that you could ultimately be facing. Federal and state law both prohibit committing fraud in communications such as the Internet, telemarketing, and even the use of the U.S. postal system. Fraud charges actually carry severe penalties, especially if the crime ends up being considered a federal crime. You could potentially be facing a twenty to thirty year prison sentence, especially if a bank or other similar institution was defrauded of the funds.


Considering how serious of a charge advance fee fraud can be, you’re going to want to find the right lawyer for your case, someone with extensive experience in advance fee fraud cases. You’ll find exactly that at the law firm of Joseph Potashnik and Associates, PC. Our New York City criminal defense attorneys have represented hundreds of clients facing fraud charges in state and federal courts, at all stages of criminal process from the initial investigation to appeal.


So if you’re facing legal problems, it’s best that you reach out to us today. We’ll be glad to get you the help you need.