Will I Go to Jail for Counterfeiting Credit Cards?
California Penal Code 484i PC makes it a crime for a someone to counterfeit credit cards and make or possess any type of machinery to make them.
This type of white collar fraud crime has become a massive billion-dollar per year industry and can be charged by California state prosecutors or even federal authorizes under 18 U.S.C § 1029 in serious high-dollar cases crossing state lines.
PC 484i is a “wobbler” crime that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony depending the specific details of the case, including the amount of loss suffered by the victim.
Many people who are charged with Penal Code 484i PC counterfeiting credit cards will often face other related crimes, such as:
- Penal Code 530.5 PC – identity theft,
- Penal Code 487 PC – felony grand theft,
- Penal Code 470 PC – forgery.
The state of California also has numerous other statues that are related to credit card fraud.
The difference in these laws are the manner in how the credit card was used, the amount stolen, and whether someone’s identity was stolen to complete the crime.
The closely related California Penal Code Sections are as follows:
- Penal Code 484e – stealing credit cards,
- Penal Code 484f – forgery of credit card information,
- Penal Code 484g – fraudulent use of a credit card,
- Penal Code 484h – retailer credit card fraud.
This article, however, by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will focus on the crime of counterfeiting credit cards defined under Penal Code 484i PC.
Definition of PC 484i Counterfeiting Credit Cards
California Penal Code 484i defines the illegal act of counterfeiting credit cards:
- “(a) Any person who possesses an incomplete access card with intent to complete it without consent of the issuer.”
Further, any person who alters, changes, or modifies access card information with intent to defraud, such as encoded magnetic stripe, or authorizes modification of account information causing transactions to be charged to someone other than the cardholder.
It also includes any person who designs, possesses, or traffics in card making equipment with intent to make counterfeit access cards.
This means you could be charged with Penal Code 484i counterfeiting credit cards in the following situations:
- You are in possession of an incomplete credit card with intent to complete it without consent;
- You alter a credit card, such as modification of magnetic stripe with owner’s identifying information;
- You have possession or sell equipment used to create credit cards or incomplete cards.
Different Types of Credit Card Counterfeit Schemes
With the advent of the internet and more and more online activity, there’s a lot of credit card counterfeit-type scams going on and they can come about in many different ways in Los Angeles and throughout the United States.
It’s not just somebody using someone else’s credit card or manufacturing some sort of credit card by way of a scheme or artifice. What I see a lot of times is people stealing other people’s information and that can come about through a variety of different ways.
They could put up some sort of a machine to capture people’s information. For example, at a gas station, they can grab the credit card information.
Then, from there, they got a whole system set up where they can emboss credit cards by way of using the same type of machines that the credit card companies use and they can actually make credit cards using the information that they steal.
There’s a variety of different ways that they can steal the information, not just at a gas station, but at retail stores, through mailboxes, the list just goes on and on.
Amount of Loss from Credit Card Fraud
But the scheme is a very serious one and prosecutors want to put people in prison for this type of a scheme, especially if there are huge dollar amounts involved.
What I see going on is, not only do I see people counterfeiting the credit cards, but then they’re sending shoppers out to shop the credit cards.
So, they’re going to places in Beverly Hills, throughout Los Angeles, and they’re buying watches, jewelry, clothing, the list just goes on and on. So, this is a whole operation going on with thousands of dollars being lost by these credit card companies.
Credit card companies have a lot of power because they are involved in our economy. If we can’t protect credit card companies from illegal schemes of counterfeiting, I think the government really feels that things are going to spiral out of control as it relates to this particular area.
Keeping Defendant’s Out of Jail
So, to address the issue of how I’m able to keep people out of jail and prison, it depends on:
- the type of credit card counterfeiting we’re talking about; and
- they’re also going to look at the amount of the loss.
If there’s a huge amount of loss, obviously the prosecutors are going to want punishment for that, especially if there’s sophistication involved in the scheme.
But sometimes we can counter-balance that by either proving that the defendant did not cause all of the loss or trying to pay the loss back. If we can make the victim whole, which is also known as restitution, whether it be an:
- individual person,
- credit card company, or
- a bank.
if we can pay these people back, get them their money back, then we are in a strong negotiating position with the prosecutors because they see it as one of their jobs to get the money back to the victims.
Thus, if we can help you do that if you’re being ordered to pay restitution anyway, if you’re found guilty of any credit card fraud related offense, we might as well take the upper hand and get the people paid back.
They’re also going to look at your criminal record. If you have a horrible criminal record marred with theft for many years, they’re going to want to send you to prison for a long time.
If on the other hand, you have no record, then you have a much stronger argument to say that this is an aberration, it’s never going to happen again. And of course, we’re going to look at the other factors like:
- amount of loss,
- who was harmed,
- how many victims there were.
So, there’s a whole host of factors that are going to determine whether or not you’re going to go to jail or prison.
Criminal Defense for Credit Card Counterfeiting
But the key foundational thing you must have is a great defense attorney, because that attorney is going to be able to look at your situation, who you are, what you allegedly did, what your criminal record looks like, who the victims were and come up with a game plan to put you in the best position possible.
When we talk about the best position, we’re talking about keeping you out of jail or prison, guarding your reputation and a host of other things that could befall you if you’re charged with a criminal case in Los Angeles that involves credit card counterfeiting-type offenses.
So, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I’ve worked for the prosecutors, a judge, and I’ve been the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm for almost three decades defending cases just like yours, people just like you, in the same position and getting unbelievable results.
Hedding Law Firm is located at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our firm a free consultation at (213) 374-3952.
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