Fraud Charges and Penalties in Pennsylvania Explained


Fraud makes up many different types of crimes – from the simple forging of checks to complicated and technical wire or internet fraud. It is one of the most common white collar crimes in Pennsylvania and is frequently prosecuted. If found guilty, you potentially face very harsh penalties – the worst being up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Beyond the penalties of a guilty verdict and jail time, being convicted of a serious crime like fraud means you will likely have trouble finding employment, loans, and even housing in the future. Being convicted of any crime can be a burden for you and your family for many years to come.

However, being found guilty and convicted of fraud is different than facing charges. Until you are found guilty, you have many options for fighting your charges or getting your sentence reduced or dropped.

Types of Fraud Charges

Fraud is covered extensively in Title 18 Chapter 41 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes – titled Forgery and Fraudulent Practices. While there are many forms of fraud, all fraud crimes have a similar intent – which is to mislead, misrepresent, and/or offer false statements and/or documentation in order to make a personal financial gain.

Common Fraud Charges

  1. Forgery
  2. Passing bad checks
  3. Credit card fraud
  4. Insurance fraud
  5. Wire fraud
  6. Mail fraud
  7. Tax fraud
  8. Identity theft

In addition to the charges and penalties you face in Pennsylvania, you may also be subject to U.S. federal jurisdiction if:

  • Your offense crossed over state borders – physically or electronically;
  • You used a federal system, for example the U.S. Postal Service; or
  • The organization you sought to defraud was a government organization.

Generally speaking, it is very difficult to execute a fraud crime that does not use either electronic communication or the mail system, so facing federal charges is quite common.

Penalties For Fraud Crimes

The penalties for fraud crimes are directly correlated to the amount of money defrauded. However, that is not the only factor – the type of victim and the number of criminal offenses can also add to the severity of the penalties inflicted.

For example, if a victim of fraud is a person over the age of 60, the charges the alleged criminal will face automatically increase by one degree. In other words, if your original charge is normally considered a second degree misdemeanor, you will receive a first degree misdemeanor charge if your victim is 60 years of age or older. This means a lot of extra jail time, upon conviction.

Fraud crimes have a wide range of penalties spanning from a summary offense to a misdemeanor or felony. The punishment for each offense includes:

  • Summary Offense: Up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine
  • Third Degree Misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine
  • Second Degree Misdemeanor: Up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine
  • First Degree Misdemeanor: Up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine
  • Third Degree Felony: Up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine
  • Second Degree Felony: Up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine

Here are just a few examples of the penalties you can face in Pennsylvania if you are arrested for the following fraud crime:

Credit Card Fraud

  • Less than $50: Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Less than $500: First Degree Misdemeanor
  • More than $500: Felony

Insurance Fraud 

  • Third Degree Felony

Identity Theft

  • Less than $2,000: First Degree Misdemeanor
  • More than $2,000: Third Degree Felony

Passing Bad Checks

  • Less than $200: Summary Offense
  • $200-$500: Third Degree Misdemeanor
  • $500-$1,000: Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • $1,000 $75,000: First Degree Misdemeanor
  • More than $75,000: Third Degree Felony

Legal Options for Fraud Charges

Contact the Fraud Defense Attorneys at SMT to Schedule a Free Consultation

Facing both state and federal charges is complicated.  An experienced criminal defense attorney who handles fraud cases is a necessity in helping you have the best chance at a positive outcome for your case. Our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys will thoroughly investigate your case, gather all evidence and closely examine all police reports, witness testimony, and documents pertinent to your arrest.  We work to significantly increase your chances of having your charges reduced or withdrawn by building a strong defense strategy.We will make sure we get answers to all questions to aid in proving your innocence as well as search for any holes in the prosecution’s case. Schedule a consultation today to find out your options. 

Follow us on social media

Keep up with our latest news, see how we're giving back to the community, and stay connected!

Schedule your FREE Case