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What Are the Elements of Conspiracy & Conspiracy to Commit Fraud in California?

A conspiracy is a kind of criminal partnership — an agreement of two or more persons to commit one or more crimes. The crime of conspiracy is the agreement to do something unlawful; it does not matter whether the crime agreed upon was committed. For a conspiracy to have existed, it is not necessary that the conspirators made a formal agreement or that they agreed on every detail of the conspiracy.

Elements of a conspiracy include:

  • One becomes a member of a conspiracy by willfully participating in the unlawful plan with the intent to advance or further some object or purpose of the conspiracy, even though the person does not have full knowledge of all the details of the conspiracy. One who willfully joins an existing conspiracy is as responsible for it as the originators.
  • On the other hand, one who has no knowledge of a conspiracy, but happens to act in a way which furthers some object or purpose of the conspiracy, does not thereby become a conspirator.
  • Similarly, a person does not become a conspirator merely by associating with one or more persons who are conspirators, nor merely by knowing that a conspiracy exists.
  • An overt act does not itself have to be unlawful. A lawful act may be an element of a conspiracy if it was done for the purpose of carrying out the conspiracy.
  • The government is not required to prove that the defendant personally did one of the overt acts.
  • Other examples of a conspiracy include conspiracy to distribute narcotics or conspiracy to commit any other crime.

Additionally, conspiracy to commit fraud can differentiate from a standalone fraud charge as you do not actually have to commit fraud to be charged as a conspirator to fraud. To be charged with conspiracy to commit fraud one only has to be in agreement with one of the aspect of the larger fraud that took place.

What is Punishment for Criminal Conspiracy?

Many cases in federal court are charged as conspiracies. The government uses this statute to charge individuals who are only minimally involved in large cases. This can be terrifying for someone who is significantly less culpable and knows very little about the scope and structure of the enterprise.

In order for someone to be found guilty of conspiracy, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • There was an agreement between two or more persons to commit at least one crime.
  • The defendant became a member of the conspiracy knowing of at least one of its objects and intending to help accomplish it.
  • One of the members of the conspiracy performed at least one overt act for the purpose of carrying out the conspiracy.

Even someone who did not obtain any money in a fraud conspiracy can be subject to the same penalties as the people who got away with millions of dollars. This is because the sentence in fraud cases is based upon the amount of loss to the alleged victim, not the amount of gain to the defendant. In conspiracy, everyone involved can be held equally responsible. They will also be held jointly and severely liable for the loss and be required to pay restitution if convicted.

Penalties typically include:

  • Up to 5 Years in Prison
  • Up to $250k in Fines

If you or a loved one are charged with or are being investigated for conspiracy, contact the Law Office of Diane C. Bass, A Professional Law Corporation immediately.

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