Notorious crimes of fraud or theft often involve high-profile people and million-dollar offenses, but even far smaller cases can lead to jail time.
Take the case of 2 Ohio sport fishermen who were sentenced on May 11 to spend 10 days in jail and serve 6 months of probation for trying to rig a fishing tournament last September by weighing down the fish they’d caught.
The jail time could have been as much as 6 months to 1 year, but prosecutors recommended otherwise.
The men also must pay a $2,500 fine as part of their punishment. However, the fine can be cut in half if the men—36 and 43 years old—agree to make a $1,250 charitable donation to a nonprofit group.
The men also must forfeit the boat and trailer that they used in the tournament to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, as well as have their state fishing licenses suspended for 3 years, the maximum punishment for the offense.
According to Men’s Journal, the men were sentenced as part of a plea bargain agreement. They pleaded guilty to charges of felony cheating and misdemeanor unlawful ownership of wild animals but had charges of attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools dropped as part of the agreement.
The cheating scandal occurred during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail fishing tournament last fall. That’s when the tournament’s director discovered that the men’s winning walleye fish had been stuffed with lead weights and filets from other fish.
“This plea is the first step in teaching these crooks two basic life lessons,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley said after the plea deal. “Thou shall not steal, and crime does not pay.”
The offense was detected when the men, who’d had a sudden run of successes, submitted a bucket of walleye fish that appeared to weigh about 4 pounds each but instead weighed at least 7 pounds each on the scale. The tournament’s director then sliced the fish open and found the extra weights that had been inserted.
Several videos of the discovery went viral after the event.
The men had stood to win $28,760 in pooled prize money. Instead, they were disqualified—and later arrested.
As part of their plea agreement, the men both apologized before the court during their sentencing on Monday, May 15. One called the crime “the most ignorant decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
Texas laws on cheating, known as fraud
In Texas, a similar crime of cheating would be known as fraud, and the severity of the punishment would depend on the dollar amount of the fraud.
For a fraud offense such as this one of between $2,500 and $30,000, the crime would be a state jail felony in Texas.
Texas’ punishments for a state jail felony include 180 days to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Texas punishments for fraud can be more severe if larger amounts of money or services are involved—or less severe for smaller amounts.
- The crime is a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the property or service is under $100. Punishment for that level of fraud is a fine of up to $500.
- The crime is a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the property or service is $100 or more but less than $750. Punishments for that level of fraud include up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- The crime is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property or service is $750 or more but less than $2,500. Punishments for that level of fraud include up to 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- The crime is a felony of the third degree if the value of the property or service is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000. Punishments for that level of fraud include 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. (Stealing trade secrets, mail theft and cargo theft can also be third-degree felonies in Texas.)
- The crime is a felony of the second degree if the value of the property or service is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000. Punishments for that level of fraud include 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- The crime is a felony of the first degree if the value of the property or service is $300,000 or more. Punishments for that level of fraud include 5 to 99 years (or life) in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Get the best Houston fraud defense lawyer
If you or a loved one in the Houston area faces an accusation, claim or charge of fraud, you must get the best fraud defense lawyer you can find to protect your legal rights.
Other white-collar offenses can include:
- Antitrust violations
- Property theft
- Money laundering
- Identity theft (also known as “phishing,” but not that kind of fishing)
As for fraud, that white-collar crime can involve the following:
- Government fraud
- Wire fraud
- Mail fraud
- Bank fraud
- Mortgage fraud
Such crimes can violate federal and state laws, and they can lead to federal and state punishments.
While there are many types of white-collar crimes, among the most common offenses are those involving fraud. In fact, fraud cases are rising in Houston, and law enforcement authorities—particularly on the federal level—are cracking down on them.
With punishments ranging up to 99 years in prison, a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced fraud defense attorney is vital for anyone facing such a charge.
If you live in Houston, Sugar Land, Conroe, The Woodlands or elsewhere in Harris County, Fort Bend County or Montgomery County, contact us today at the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm to arrange a confidential consultation for your fraud, theft or other white-collar crime case.