Law Office of Michael L. Fell
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Honest Services Fraud: What is It and How Can You Fight Against This Charge?

According to federal law, honest services fraud refers to a “scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” What does this mean? Unfortunately, it is a broad federal crime that can be hard to define and broadly interpreted by the courts. Keep reading to learn more or contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 to talk to an experienced fraud defense attorney.

What Exactly Are Honest Services?

The law does not specifically define what is meant by “honest services.” In previous court cases, they have ranged from property to “intangible rights” that are given to the public. The purpose of the original law was to provide an option to prosecute corrupt government officials, the fact that the “intangible rights” are so difficult to define has allowed people in the private sector to face these allegations.

Understanding “Intangible Rights”

When the law was written, being denied “intangible rights” referred to government officials not acting “openly and faithfully” for their constituents. Now, people in certain relationships, such as privileged, fiduciary, or employment, can be found in breach if they would have been covered by tort law. This does not require that any money or property changes hands.

In fact, the attempt to deprive someone of honest services need not even be successful. If there is a breach of fiduciary duty, or failure to disclose a conflict of interest, it can be charged as wire fraud or mail fraud. As you can see, this is a vague offense that can be used against almost anyone in many situations.

The Prosecutor Must Prove Several Elements to Prove Honest Services Fraud

In order for a prosecutor to earn a guilty verdict, they must prove that there was a scheme in place that was created with the intention of defrauding people, that the scheme was intended to deny the victims “the intangible right of honest services,” that the alleged perpetrator could reasonably foresee that the scheme would cause more than de minimis monetary harm (even if it was not successful) and that the scheme involved the mail or wires.

Note that there are no specific requirements that define “honest services.” This is because the court has total discretion as to what is considered “honest service.”

The Importance of an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Not only is this a complex crime, but it is not well understood. For this reason, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to find holes in the case of the prosecutor and who can best defend you. To learn what your options are, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.