I was just curious, how often does the government actually prosecute cases of fraud in court?

Are there parameters that they usually follow when deciding to take a case to court?

  • 1
    This question is unanswerable as written. There is no such thing as "civil court." Moreover, the entirety of any direct answer would be: when it suits the government agent charged with bringing suit. Given that is THE answer, any informative discussion requires more context. Factors the agent (e.g., a US Attorney or SEC enforcement attorney) may consider are wide reaching but probably include: (1) likely success; (2) likely gain to ones reputation from success; (3) enforcement priorities of their employer; (4) available time; (5) personal morales; (6) cooperation by would be defendant.
    – COMisHARD
    Sep 9 '16 at 22:18

"Fraud" is a broad term. In the first 9 months of Fiscal Year 2015, the US Government prosecuted 5173 white collar crimes, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. This includes mail fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the US, identity theft, health care fraud, wire fraud, and others (listed in the link).

Federal prosecutors have a large amount of discretion in when to bring charges. See The Department of Justice Policy on Charging and Sentencing and Title 9 of US Attorney's Manual, Section 27 (Principles of Federal Prosecution).

These are not laws, but internal department guidance to prosecutors that outline the factors they should consider when making charging decisions. There is quite a lot of detail in these guidelines, but at the highest level, they are summed up by this paragraph from the Attorney General's memo:

Accordingly, decisions regarding charging, plea agreements, and advocacy at sentencing must be made on the merits of each case, taking into account an individualized assessment of the defendant's conduct and criminal history and the circumstances relating to commission of the offense (including the impact of the crime on victims), the needs of the communities we serve, and federal resources and priorities.

The US Attorney's Manual gives very specific guidance regarding the prosecution of various forms of fraud. For example, Title 9, Section 43 covers mail and wire fraud. Here is an excerpt:

Prosecutions of fraud ordinarily should not be undertaken if the scheme employed consists of some isolated transactions between individuals, involving minor loss to the victims, in which case the parties should be left to settle their differences by civil or criminal litigation in the state courts.

  • This answer is incomplete to the point of being seriously misleading. Not only does it fail to distinguish between types of fraud, it makes no attempt to engage the empirical question being asked: OP does not ask "what are some guidelines related to antifraud enforcement" rather it asks when "the Gov't" charges people, there is no indication whatsoever that the guidelines are followed, or that the guidelines you mentioned are the relevant guidelines with respect to the vastly diverse sets of government enforcement of potential antifraud conduct.
    – COMisHARD
    Sep 10 '16 at 15:17
  • thank you for trying to help dawn. @COMisHARD is correct, however. I want to know how often and with what criteria the gov't charges for fraud
    – J. Wilk
    Sep 11 '16 at 21:07
  • @J.Wilk We can't read minds. We can only say what their claimed criteria are, which are summarized in the memo and in the US Attorney's Manual. Also, the answer for "how often" is in this link: trac.syr.edu/tracreports/crim/398
    – user3851
    Sep 11 '16 at 21:10

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