Saffari Law Group

Have you been ARRESTED or contacted by the Police, a Detective, FBI, or CPS?

Los Angeles Fraud Defense Lawyer

A fraud charge can turn your life upside down. You might lose clients, friends, your reputation—even your job. However, you are innocent until proven guilty. Our Los Angeles fraud defense lawyer will fight for your future.

Call Saffari Law Group to get started today.

Types of Fraud Cases Our Team Handles in Los Angeles

The Saffari Law Group handles practically every type of fraud crime, most of which fall into the following three categories: 

  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • White-collar crimes in general (including workers’ compensation fraud)

What Constitutes Embezzlement?

If you are in a position of trust over an individual’s finances or property and you allegedly steal, misappropriate, or otherwise convert for your own use that person’s money or property, you will be charged with embezzlement. The key element for this crime is that you intended to permanently deprive the victim of said money or property.

Charges You Will Face for Embezzlement

If the amount of money or value of the property exceeds $950, then you’ll likely be charged with a felony. Anything less typically gets prosecuted as a misdemeanor. On the other hand, if you allegedly embezzle more than $50,000, you’ll receive a sentencing enhancement if convicted.

The key thing to remember about embezzlement is that unlike virtually all other theft-related crimes, the defendant in an embezzlement case initially had the right to lawful possession of the funds or property (or even services) at the time of the alleged theft. In other words, if you are a fiduciary by law or contract and allegedly absconded with some of your client’s money, you will almost certainly be charged with embezzlement.

What Can Happen If You Get a Felony Conviction for Embezzlement?

Misdemeanor embezzlement is punished exactly the same as petty theft—no more than one year in jail (if, in fact, incarceration is ordered by the sentencing judge).

Felony embezzlement (again, value at issue is more than $950.00) can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. Therefore, it is known as a “wobbler offense,” punishable the same as grand theft. That means: 

  • Fines and/or up to either six or twelve months in jail (if sentenced as misdemeanor or misdemeanor grand theft, respectively) or
  • Fines and/or 16, 24, or 36 months, if prison is ordered (felony grand theft)

Defending an Embezzlement Charge

The defense we use will depend on your case, but could include any of the following:

  • You only borrowed the funds: One way to attack this type of charge is by providing evidence (possibly instead of or combined with your own testimony) that you were only temporarily borrowing the funds or using the property with the intent to return it in the near future to the owner.
  • The value of the allegedly embezzled property was lower than law enforcement is claiming: Another element of this crime that might be attacked is the value of the property allegedly embezzled, which may require an expert witness to assist a jury in determining its value. Again, the amount will determine whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
  • No one actually entrusted you with the funds: Also, if you were never actually lawfully entrusted with the funds or property, then you cannot be charged with embezzlement, though you would probably be charged with a different offense, such as grand theft (felony) or petty theft (misdemeanor).
  • You thought the funds were yours: A so-called “claim of right” defense can also defeat an embezzlement charge if you can provide evidence that you subjectively (and not necessarily reasonably) believed that the funds or property belonged to or were owed to you. This can defeat the key element that you intended to steal the asset from the owner. Obviously, if the money was in fact owed to you, for instance, then you could not be convicted of embezzlement.
  • You had consent: Similarly, you might be able to show that you actually had the owner’s consent to borrow or take the subject funds or property. The consent, of course, could not have been given through any deceitful means on your part.

How We Defend Embezzlement Cases

The focus of these cases is money—how much was taken from the owner and allegedly pocketed by the defendant, and what was the intention of the defendant in regards to the money. Occasionally, the owner-victim may be primarily interested in being made financially whole by the defendant. In this case, the investigating detective or prosecuting attorney may be inclined not to pursue the case if a compromise and promise to pay restitution is made.

White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes consist of virtually every possible type of financial crime and fraud you can imagine, from your garden-variety nickel-and-dime embezzlement all the way up to complex, long-term money laundering schemes. To put it another way, almost anything you can steal or rob without a weapon, force, or threat falls under this category of offense.

More specifically, these types of crimes commonly fall into the following subcategories:

  • Bribing public officials
  • Fraud involving corporations
  • Transactions involving credit cards
  • Embezzling funds from your employer
  • Crimes committed by fiduciaries (people in positions of trust)
  • Forging signatures and documents
  • Theft of another’s personal identifying information
  • Any crimes involving computers, the internet, or social media
  • Bank fraud
  • Real estate fraud
  • Fraudulent investment deals
  • Robo-calling scams
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Insurance scams
  • Welfare fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Wire fraud

Most white-collar crimes can be prosecuted as either state or federal offenses, and can often be left up to the prosecutor to determine whether they should be charged as misdemeanors or felonies.

Defenses to White-Collar Criminal Charges

The same defenses apply here as they do to crimes involving theft and fraud in general. These include: 

  • Presenting evidence that you never intended to permanently deprive the owner of the funds or property
  • Proving that you did not take the owner’s property for such an extended period of time as to deprive him or her of the majority of its value
  • Proving that you lawfully obtained the owner’s permission to take or use the funds or property

Sentencing for White-Collar Criminal Convictions

Sentences depend on whether your guilty or no-contest plea, or conviction following a jury or bench (judge-only) trial, resulted in a misdemeanor or felony. 

The amount of money or value of property allegedly taken as a result of the crime will also determine the severity of the sentence. 

So, too, will other factors, such as the number of victims affected and any sentencing enhancements. The latter includes any prior convictions involving deceit, theft, or fraud.

Penalties for White-Collar Criminal Convictions

Depending on the specific factors surrounding your conviction, you could receive no jail time, up to a year in county jail, or years or even decades in state or federal prison. You would also likely be subject to asset forfeiture and restitution orders.

Assuming you didn’t have to serve time in prison, you would also receive formal or informal probation, depending on various factors.

Finally, almost all white-collar offenses constitute crimes of moral turpitude, which indicate that the defendant acted with particularly reprehensible intent to deceive and steal. As a result, a conviction – even for a misdemeanor with no jail time – can result in the suspension or revocation of professional licenses, deportation if you’re not a US citizen, loss of employment and educational opportunities, dishonorable discharge from the military, and so forth.

Ninaz Saffari’s Approach to Defending White-Collar Criminal Cases

In particularly complicated cases, Ninaz will employ the services of private consultants and experts to sift through what could amount to hundreds or even thousands of pages of potential evidence. And if the documentation reveals evidence or information that could mitigate the charges or even exonerate her client altogether, she will have her experts testify in court—typically at trial, but also occasionally at the preliminary hearing in felony cases.

Further, if you are facing extra consequences as discussed above, Ninaz will work with other attorneys and specialists to save your license, maintain your legal resident status, etc.

Forgery (California Penal Code 470 P.C.)

If you allegedly sign the name of another person (dead or living, real or fictitious) for the purpose of committing fraud, knowing that you lack the authority to sign, then you can be convicted of forgery.

The signature can be on virtually any type of document, as long as the intent was to defraud and the document has some type of legal significance. Even an unsuccessful attempt to defraud can result in a forgery conviction.

There are both misdemeanor and felony forgery charges, depending on the amount at stake—if it’s less than $950, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.

You can also be charged with forgery if you allegedly counterfeited artistic works (with a forged signature) or even objects such as purportedly rare bottles of wine. However, as these types of forgeries typically involve the use of interstate commerce or electronic communications, they will almost always be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in federal court.

Defeating a Forgery Prosecution

The defense we use could include:

  • You did not forge the signature in question: Proving that you were the individual who executed the forged signature on the legal or financial document may not be as simple and straightforward as it sounds—unless you were filmed signing the document, or there were witnesses to you doing so, the DA’s Office may have to put an expert witness on the stand to testify that based on their analysis of your natural handwriting, you must have done the forgery.

If we have legitimate grounds to dispute the expert’s assertion, then we will present evidence from our expert.

  • You had the legal authority to sign the document: Alternatively, if you are not disputing that you were the one who signed the document at issue in another’s name, then the best defense—if true, of course—is that you actually had legal authority (either implied or actual) to do so. 

This lack of authority issue raises another potential defense—namely, that you were unaware that you were lacking it at the time you signed the document. For example, suppose you were the primary caregiver for a senior citizen suffering from dementia, and regularly wrote out small personal checks on their behalf—but all having been done with their explicit authorization. So imagine if they later replaced you with a new financial custodian but forgot to inform you. In this circumstance, you could then be charged with forgery for any subsequent checks you endorsed.

  • You believed the money was yours: Arguably, the most difficult element for the DA to prove is that at the time you allegedly signed the legal document, you had the specific intent to steal the victim’s money. Thus, you might be able to counter with credible evidence that you reasonably believed the money you took was owed to you, or that you only intended to borrow the funds temporarily (as opposed to permanently depriving the victim of it).

What to Expect If You’re Convicted of Forgery

Your sentence will depend on whether you pled guilty or no contest to, or were convicted at trial, of a misdemeanor or felony forgery. 

  • For a misdemeanor, you’ll serve a maximum of 365 days in jail—assuming that the judge orders incarceration. If you aren’t ordered to serve jail time, you likely receive three years’ probation. 
  • For felonies, you can expect sentences of sixteen months, two years, or three years in a state prison facility. If you aren’t ordered to serve prison time, you’ll face five years’ probation.

There are also sentencing enhancements that may apply, such as instances where the forgery involved the loss/theft of millions of dollars or if you have a criminal record for prior theft and fraud-related convictions.

Other penalties may apply:

  • In many cases, you’ll have to satisfy a victim restitution order as part of your sentencing terms.
  • If you have professional licenses (federal or state) or were planning on obtaining one, you should know that forgery is considered to be a crime of moral turpitude that would likely result in your license being terminated or even revoked.
  • Immigration consequences, if there are any, can be equally serious and result in the commencement of deportation proceedings against you.
  • You may also have to perform community service and attend some type of counseling.

How Our Criminal Defense Lawyer Prefers to Deal with Forgery Cases

In fighting forgery/theft/fraud charges on behalf of our clients, our fraud defense lawyer often uses a team approach. If the case is still in the investigation stage, we might work with one of our private investigators to hopefully accumulate evidence that might convince the investigating detective or even the DA’s Office to drop the charges.

Or, if there are licensing or immigration issues, for example, we will work closely with other attorneys to handle those areas as well.

See how our fraud defense lawyer can help you today. Call Saffari Law Group now.

Criminal Defense

A Sampling of Past Fraud and White-Collar Cases We Have Handled

Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Permanent resident faced felony Workers’ Comp fraud – prison & deportation – all charges dismissed

People v. G.P.: Our client was a non-citizen permanent resident living here with his two young kids when he was arrested for and charged with felony Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud. Thus, he was facing prison and then immediate deportation upon completion of his sentence. 

Specifically, he was facing five felony counts for WC fraud and attempted perjury. This was a particularly challenging case, particularly because the DA’s Office presented at the preliminary hearing several witnesses who alleged that our client had not actually been present in the location in which he was working at the time of his accident (and where he was injured on the job). 

However, we put on our own defense witnesses who directly contradicted the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses. We were also able to impeach the DA’s witnesses with inconsistent statements they had previously made to authorities about the incident. Finally, we met with the prosecutor (after the prelim) and showed him results of a lie-detector test—administered by a highly reputable polygrapher who works closely with law enforcement—that our client had taken which clearly indicated he had been telling the truth about the incident. 

On the day we announced to the judge that we were ready to proceed with trial, the DA’s Office dismissed the case and our client not only was able to remain with his family in the US, but also eventually became an American citizen.

Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft

Client on parole faced over eight years behind bars for identity theft and credit card fraud, among other offenses – misdemeanor and no prison time

People v. J.P.C.C. 

Our client was arrested after his girlfriend was pulled over for running a stop sign. Officers searched the vehicle (even after our client and his girlfriend refused to consent to a warrantless search) and found over a pound of marijuana and approximately $20,000. 

When asked, our client denied that he was on parole or probation but after the West Covina Police Department ran his license, they found there was a warrant out for his arrest. Law enforcement forced our client to open his phone where officers allegedly found proof of both credit card fraud and identity theft. 

Our client was facing eight and a half years behind bars (three years in prison for identity theft, three years in prison for fraudulent use of a credit card, two years for the parole violation, and six months in jail for the marijuana).

He hired us before the DA’s office filed formal charges. Ninaz and our team provided the case detective with loads of exculpatory evidence and also filed a Motion for Return of Stolen Property. Our client received $16,000 of the $20,000 and pled to a misdemeanor for the marijuana possession. He received informal probation and did not spend time in jail or prison.  

Mortgage Fraud

Client faced 25 years in prison for mortgage fraud and other felony offenses – no charges filed

Federal Criminal Investigation of J.D.: 

Our client, a mortgage broker, was about to be arrested and prosecuted for his involvement in a nationwide mortgage fraud ring.

The dozens of alleged co-conspirators were all prosecuted for: 

  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States
  • Honest services fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Obstruction of criminal investigations
  • Wire fraud

After our client learned that the Federal Bureau Investigation wanted to question him about his alleged involvement in a racketeering conspiracy, he called us. He was facing 25 years in federal prison. Ninaz spent almost a year persuading prosecutors that their evidence was weak.

Federal prosecutors dropped the charges.

Welfare Fraud

Client faced years in county jail for welfare fraud and grand theft – charges were not pursued

People v. J.C. (Central Civil West Superior Courthouse, March 2019 )

Our client was investigated for welfare fraud and grand theft—which meant up to three and a half years in county jail. Ninaz let the fraud investigator know that they made a mistake. She also kept our client from speaking with the detective to ensure they did not say anything that the prosecution could use to prove specific intent.

No charges were pursued and the case was dropped.

Feel free to review our other case results.

Let Our Los Angeles Fraud Defense Lawyer Protect Your Future Today

An arrest or charge is not a conviction but you want someone in your corner to keep it that way.

But you don’t want just anyone. You want a criminal defense attorney who has handled over 7,000 cases and taken over 70 of them to trial. You want someone who treats you as a human being—who treats you with compassion but doesn’t sugarcoat the mess you might be in. You want someone wholly dedicated to you and your case, someone who takes on a small number of cases so you get the attention you deserve. You want someone well-known and respected in the industry.

You want Ninaz Saffari.

Call Los Angeles fraud defense attorney Ninaz Saffari and the Saffari Law Group today to get started.