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Trying to find a way to pay for Christmas gifts is a challenge for people this time of year. The one thing that you shouldn't ever do is to give in to the temptation of turning to illegal means to pay for gifts for loved ones. It is pretty safe to say that they'd like to have you around for the holidays more than what they'd appreciate you being in jail for theft.

One area that you have to be concerned with is credit card theft. There are a few ways that this can happen, but not all of them have to do with you using another person's card. It is possible to face credit card fraud charges if you don't use another person's card.

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The state of Wisconsin has enacted numerous laws that govern the use of credit cards. It's also developed criminal statutes with associated penalties for the fraudulent use of credit cards. If you've been accused of any type of credit card fraud, it's important to know what the potential penalties are if you're convicted.

Here is a list of penalties associated with Wisconsin credit card fraud based on the class of the crime:

-- Class A misdemeanor: This charge relates to credit card theft, counterfeit credit card possession or the illegal use of a credit card to obtain property under $2,500 in value during a six-month period. This will result in a fine of as much as $10,000 and a prison sentence of not more than nine months.

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Posted on in Fraud

Mortgage fraud generally refers to illegal schemes and misrepresentation of data on mortgage documents. Lying on the forms or impersonating someone else on the forms could result in severe penalties. Mortgage fraud can be carried out for housing purposes or monetary purposes. The sentencing depends on what type of mortgage fraud has been committed.

The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) was passed in 2009 to reduce the amount of mortgage fraud in the United States. Under this Act, the sentencing for mortgage fraud is pretty severe. Being found guilty under the FERA could result in $1 million in fines or up to 30 years in prison. When mortgage fraud takes place, states might divide the defendant's crimes into other categories. Conspiracy, wire fraud and tax fraud are a few charges that you may also face along with mortgage fraud charges.

Some common forms of mortgage fraud include showing fake loan documents, selling at falsely inflated values, using a stolen identity, equity skimming and straw buyers. States have created statutes to deal with mortgage fraud laws. In some cases, it is treated as a misdemeanor, but you could also face a class B felony charge depending on the offense. If the fraud committed is beyond state lines, the federal government gets involved. Federal sentencing for mortgage fraud is severe as compared to state laws.

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Last month, a Wisconsin woman who former worked at a Lutheran Church in Oak Creek was charged with embezzling almost $100,000 in her employment there. The woman had reportedly worked at the church in a variety of capacities over a four-year period of time, including as an administrative assistant and acting director through March of this year. In this capacity, she was given access to a debt card and bank account privileges for financial management of the church.

The woman reportedly resigned in March after the pastor inquired about her use of church accounts to pay for concert tickets. By the end of the month she had resigned from her position. Among the types of theft with which she was accused were: theft of payments for childcare fees; withdrawing funds from automatic teller machines and spending them on personal expenses; as well as inflated gas and grocery expenses. In total, authorities accuse the woman of embezzling $95,778.21, obviously a lot of money.

Earlier this month, the woman pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement charges. Sources say she was due back in court this week, but didn’t mention whether a trial date has been set. A guilty plea in such a case, it is important to understand, is not necessarily a denial of all criminal liability. In the criminal process, a defendant is presented with the charges against him or her in first appearances and may plead guilty or not guilty. In any case, of course, pleading guilty should not be done haphazardly, but with solid legal guidance to ensure the defendant has the opportunity to consider the charges, negotiate with prosecutors about resolving the case, and to weigh the risks and benefits of going to trial.

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In our last post, we began looking at a case in which a Wisconsin woman has been charged with embezzling nearly $100,000 during her employment at an Oak Creek Lutheran Church. Earlier this month, she pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement charges. As we said last time, there are a variety of reasons why a defendant might choose to plead not guilty in a criminal case.

One obvious reason is that the defendant denies that he or she is guilty of a criminal offense. In such cases, the defendant works to build a case that prosecutors do not have sufficient evidence to justify conviction on the charges. In the case of embezzlement, a lack of documentation that there was any theft, lack of opportunity to access company funds, the possibility of other individuals having stolen the funds in question, and other factors become important in such cases.

In many embezzlement cases, a not guilty plea is not so much about denying all liability, but about denying the accuracy of charges. A defendant, in other words, is not necessarily denying all guilt for missing funds, but the sufficiency of the state’s evidence, particularly with respect to the amount of stolen funds. Inaccuracy of criminal charges is no small matter in embezzlement cases, since the outcome of such cases depends on the amount of theft involved. In cases where the state has significant evidence of superstition, disputing the accuracy of the amount stolen can, therefore, become an important issue in an embezzlement case.

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