This holiday season, many San Diego retailers will be on high alert for any acts of fraud and theft that may hurt their bottom line. This includes acts return fraud, which occurs when you return property that you have not purchased. Return fraud can occur when you steal an item and return it in exchange for cash, return an item that has been purchased at a different store, or forge a receipt to deceive a store owner. If you have been accused of return fraud it is important to understand the theft charges you may face and the potential consequences of your actions.
What is Return Fraud?
In San Diego, return fraud is categorized as a crime of theft. Theft, as defined in California Penal Code Sections 484(a) and 488 PC, occurs when you intentionally take property belonging to another person without consent. A crime theft can be executed in a variety of ways, including larceny, embezzlement, trick, and fraud. Theft by fraud occurs when you:
- Knowingly and intentionally deceive a property owner
- By making a false pretense or telling a lie
- With the intent to persuade them to give you their property.
Return fraud occurs when you return an item under the false pretense that it was lawfully purchased in an attempt to receive cash or store credit.
You can actually commit return fraud without ever leaving a retail store. In some cases, perpetrators will enter a store, pocket a piece of merchandise, and immediately bring the item to customer service. Many stores offer store credit in exchange for merchandise returned without a receipt. Receiving this store credit is an act of theft.
What are the Consequences of Return Fraud?
Depending on the value of the property that is stolen, return fraud can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense in San Diego. When the value of stolen property is $950 or less, return fraud will be a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum criminal penalty of 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines. When the value of stolen property exceeds $950, return fraud will be a felony, carrying a maximum criminal penalty of 3 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
In addition to these criminal penalties, you will also face certain social and civil penalties if you are convicted of return fraud in San Diego. These penalties, which are known as collateral consequences, are not linked to your specific crime. Instead, they exist simply because you have a criminal record. Collateral consequences of a conviction for return fraud can include:
- Loss of professional licenses;
- Inability to secure employment in education, government, and healthcare industries;
- Difficulty renting an apartment or home; and
- Inability to participate in government welfare programs.
What are Defenses to Accusations of Return Fraud?
When you are accused of return fraud in San Diego you have the right to assert any legal argument that will help your defense. These arguments will generally be asserted to justify, explain, or excuse your behavior. When these defenses are successful it can be difficult for the prosecution to prove their case against you. Defenses that may be helpful in a return fraud case include:
- Lack of intent;
- Lack of knowledge;
- False accusation; and
- Mistaken identity.
San Diego Return Fraud Defense Attorneys
If you are facing criminal charges for return fraud in San Diego do not hesitate to contact an attorney. The crime of return fraud carries significant criminal penalties, so it is important to fight the charges against you. The Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC can help to minimize the consequences of your arrest. We will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime and argue any defense that will discount the charges against you. In many cases, our aggressive approach allows us to secure a reduction or dismissal of the charges against our clients. Call our San Diego return fraud defense attorneys today to schedule a free consultation. We will review your case, determine the best defense, and explain your legal rights.