Also, is fraud actually a crime by itself, or is it an element in another crime (theft by deception, tax evasion, etc.)?

  • 3
    Where? There isn't a uniform definition of these terms.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 21 at 21:14

Different jurisdictions define "fraud" and various crimes differently. I am therefore concentrating on the laws of the state of Maryland, in the US, which I believe is reasonably typical of US laws on such topics.

Criminal Fraud

Title 8 of the Maryland Criminal Code (FRAUD AND RELATED CRIMES) prohibits a number of acts which it defines as crimes, all of which involve fraud, false statements, or misrepresentations. These are categorized as:

  • Bad Checks
  • Credit Card Crimes
  • Identity Fraud
  • Other Commercial Fraud
  • Public Fraud
  • Counterfeiting and Related Crimes
  • Crimes Against Estates
  • Financial Crimes Against Vulnerable Adults
  • Miscellaneous Fraud

Most of these involved obtaining money or other benefits, or depriving someone of value, by means of false statements or misrepresentation. Generally the various code sections in Title 8 prohibit specific acts in specific fact patterns.

Section 8-501 defines fraud for the purpose of several code sections by providing that:

In this part, "fraud" includes:

(1) the willful making of a false statement or a false representation;

(2) the willful failure to disclose a material change in household or financial condition; or

(3) the impersonation of another.

This actually applies only to sections 8-502 through 8-507, but similar definitions apply throughout title 8.

For example, section 8-522] provides in relevant part, that:

(b) Prohibited.-

(b) (1) A person may not use, sell, or send or deliver to another, with the intent to induce the payment of a claim, a document that:

(b) (1) (i) simulates a summons, complaint, or other court process of any kind; or

(b) (1) (ii) implies that the person is a part of or associated with a unit of the federal government or a unit of the State or a county or municipal government.

(b) (2) With intent to induce the payment of a claim, a person may not use a seal, insignia, envelope, or any other form that simulates the seal, insignia, envelope, or form of any governmental unit.

In general, knowing use of a false statement, false document, or materiel misrepresentation to obtain an improper financial gain, or to deprive another of value is likely to fall under one of these code sections.

Theft by Deception

In Maryland, "theft by deception" is covered by code section 7-104 (b) which provides that:

(b) Unauthorized control over property - By deception.- A person may not obtain control over property by willfully or knowingly using deception, if the person:

(b) (1) intends to deprive the owner of the property;

(b) (2) willfully or knowingly uses, conceals, or abandons the property in a manner that deprives the owner of the property; or

(b) (3) uses, conceals, or abandons the property knowing the use, concealment, or abandonment probably will deprive the owner of the property.

So t6hat involves using some sort of deception to obtain property or deprive another of property. This could be considered a form of fraud, but it is a very specific one.

Theft of Services

Section 7-104 (e) {same link as above} providwes that:

(e) Services available only for compensation.- A person may not obtain the services of another that are available only for compensation:

(e) (1) by deception; or

(e) (2) with knowledge that the services are provided without the consent of the person providing them.

So theft of services may or may not involve deception.

Civil Fraud

What might be called "pure fraud" is usually a civil matter, not a criminal one. In its page on "Contracts" the Maryland People's law Library says:

Fraud – the court may cancel a contract if one of the parties knowingly made a misrepresentation or told a lie in forming the agreement. Proving fraud can be difficult; there will usually have to be an outright lie or a substantial omission in the contract.

A similar statement could be made in most US states.

Indeed § 2-721 of the Uniform commercial code (A version of which has been enacted by every US state, as I understand it) provides that:

Remedies for material misrepresentation or fraud include all remedies available under this Article for non-fraudulent breach. Neither rescission or a claim for rescission of the contract for sale nor rejection or return of the goods shall bar or be deemed inconsistent with a claim for damages or other remedy.

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