Gambling has grown in popularity in recent years, not only in California but throughout the entire country. When people play with or against others, several things can happen. Some winners legitimately win, while others win by cheating or otherwise breaking the law to manipulate the gambling results.
Huge winnings from gambling fraud have become common, and that's why anyone who wins could be accused of fraud despite knowing that they won legitimately. If this ever occurs to you, you can get in touch with us at the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm to help defend you.
An Overview of Gambling Fraud Under California Penal Code Section 332
Gaming fraud, often called gambling fraud, is defined under PEN 332 as the fraudulent acquisition of something of value or money from someone else by using any way mentioned below:
- Betting or gambling.
- Card games as well as other tricks used in games, for example, three card monte.
- Pretending to see people's futures.
Contrary to popular belief, California law does not outlaw gambling, although participants are required to abide by a variety of laws and guidelines for bookmarking and gambling under California PEN § 330 & 337.
The use of card tricks, stacked decks, and other such tactics to fool gullible gamblers into gambling is nevertheless prohibited under the law because it is considered gambling fraud. Penalties for this offense range between those specified in PEN 332 PC for petty theft and grand theft.
Under California Penal Code Section 332, gaming fraud and gambling are defined as the fraudulent acquisition of someone else's money or property through gaming as well as games like three-card monte, using hand tricks, a device, and pretending to tell someone their future, or simply by placing bets on the sides or hands of one player, game, or play.
In this context, you can act fraudulently when you are dishonest, deceitful, or lack moral turpitude and integrity in your actions. For an individual to be found guilty of this crime, it must be proven that they won the property or money from someone else using cheating and tricks. The term "property" is used in this context to mean anything of substantial value that scammers can acquire from their victims. This may include poker chips or tokens that have a certain monetary value.
It is evident from this description that anyone, including gamblers, owners of gaming businesses, and players, can be accused of gambling fraud. The practice of manipulating the results of games is common in places that permit gambling, and the players who engage in this behavior are typically the ones that walk away with enormous gains each time they take part in a gaming activity.
Three-Card Game Scams
Many people have fallen victim to this theatrical scam and consequently lost a lot of money to the dealer. To pull off this trick, the fraudster will first strike up a friendly conversation with their victim to establish trust before inviting them to play the game.
Scammers will often let their victims win several times to build their confidence before pulling the trigger on a major fraud once the stakes are raised or the deal becomes more lucrative. Most card game fraudsters are thought to be quite amiable and welcoming, persuading their victims to continue playing even after their money has been lost.
Being around persons who allegedly engage in the three-card game scams might get you in jail, particularly when the victim contacts the authorities.
The Three-Card Monte
This confidence game, also known as Find the Lady, involves deceiving the victims into betting a substantial amount of money under the pretense that they can locate the money card from three face-down cards.
Here, the fraudster will put on a clever and likable front to gain your trust. However, just like in the example game given above, the victim will be given a few opportunities to win, but as soon as he or she lays the largest bet, they will lose the game as well as all of the money that was wagered.
One could be accused of gambling fraud when they take on the role of the dealer's accomplice in the game, seeming to work with the player to defraud the dealer when they are working with the scammer to swindle the victim. The same rules apply to the person who runs these games as well as anyone else suspected of taking part in the fraud.
In California, offenses like gaming fraud can carry exceptionally harsh penalties due to how serious they are. Therefore, defendants are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with their legal rights and acquire an understanding of the many legal defenses that may be available to them to keep them from being convicted.
Fortune Telling Fraud
This is a particularly murky area of the law because the same legislation protects the right to speak freely, which is sufficient to defend against fortune-telling charges, at least to some extent.
Fortune telling for monetary benefit is forbidden under California PEN § 332, while it may be tolerated under specific circumstances. It is unlikely that a court would convict a fortune teller for gaming fraud if, for example, he or she practices a form of forecasting permitted by his or her religion. Fortune tellers who predict people's future for entertainment are not also in violation of this law.
However, a state could successfully bring charges against an astrologer or fortune teller for acquiring money or property using gambling fraud if there's inadequate proof that the religion they follow permits such forecasts or if there is proof that their religion doesn't endorse such acts and they are just seeking to defraud innocent individuals.
It is essential to take into consideration the fact that people have been trying to get insight into their futures for many centuries. This is because people have always been curious about what lies in store for them and many are willing to pay large sums of money just to have a forecast into their lives. Even in today's high-tech society, fortune tellers still a lot of money by offering their services to those who need them.
However, due to an increase in psychic frauds occurring not just in California but also across the globe, psychic services must be regulated. Californian cities like Oakland and Berkeley, for instance, do not have any particular regulations governing psychic practices. Other jurisdictions have passed laws that prohibit fortune telling in exchange for payments; in some of these places, the local police force is responsible for ensuring that fortune tellers don't violate these laws.
Other Fraud Crimes Involving Gambling
Fraud in gambling can occur in all games of chance, such as sports betting and online poker, and it is a serious offense that can carry serious consequences. Several offenses fall under this category, including the following:
Match-Fixing, Sports Fixing, or Rigging Matches
Tricks are utilized to enrich scammers while hurting the interests of bookmakers and players, and this is particularly common in games and sports that require players to reach a particular predetermined result.
In this scenario, players either utilize poker bots or collude with others to unfairly influence the outcomes of games. Even in settings where the use of poker bots is prohibited, certain players could be able to activate them secretly to generate enormous gains at the cost of other participants.
Here, the fraudster promises the victim assured profits in exchange for access to valuable details at a certain fee. While this type of fraud has traditionally been associated with horse racing, scammers have begun to apply the strategy to other sporting events as well. A fraudster can approach an unsuspecting player and give them exclusive details or foolproof procedures that they claim will let them make enormous amounts of money from gambling.
Gamblers are being targeted by more sophisticated scammers who sell them guides that purportedly introduce them to the secret world of betting. In other cases, a player will be required to pay a monthly or annual subscription to gain access to insider knowledge.
Gamers and Gambling Companies Who Violate the Legal Framework for Gambling
If it is done to benefit the gaming business or the gambler, leaving certain players to tally up massive losses, the person playing or the owner of the gaming facility could be prosecuted for engaging in fraudulent gambling activity. In California, gambling is subject to stringent regulations.
The law only permits certain kinds of gambling while outlawing others. In addition, some laws and regulations have been put in place, and these must be adhered to. Violators run the risk of being charged with offenses like gambling fraud if they fail to do so.
Sometimes scammers target those who run illegal online gaming sites in an attempt to collect users' financial and personal data, which they can then use for scams or identity theft
Foreign Lottery Scams
If individuals are required to pay a fee to take part in lotteries or to claim wins from those lotteries, then the activity in question can be construed as a form of gambling fraud. In most instances, the alleged prizes are never genuine, and lottery drawings are nonexistent. However, those who win are typically informed that they were the winners and requested to send in a particular amount of cash, which in the majority of instances is a sizeable amount, to cover taxes or simply expedite the payment process.
Penalties for Gambling Fraud
In the state of California, the consequences for offenses that involve theft are mostly determined by the monetary value of whatever has been obtained from the victim. The same can be said for gambling fraud.
According to the laws of California, you will be charged with a wobbler offense if the amount of money that you steal from another individual is greater than $950. This shows that the prosecuting attorney handling the case has the discretion to decide whether or not you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
However, the offense will be treated as a misdemeanor when the total sum of cash or the value of the assets obtained through gaming fraud is below $950. Under California law, you could be subject to the following penalties if the offense is charged as a felony:
California Felony/Formal Probation
A person who has been found guilty of a felony in California could be eligible for this option instead of incarceration, which permits the individual to serve part or all of their prison term outside of prison while remaining under supervision. Formal probation often has a duration of three to five years.
Once placed on probation, the individual must keep in regular contact with their probation officer. Additionally, the court could require the offender to make reparation payments to the person who was injured and serve some time in jail. The person on probation should also not break any of the rules since the judge has the authority to revoke their probation or sentence them to jail or prison for the longest amount of time allowed by law.
The most common terms of a felony probation term are:
- The defendant must keep all court-mandated appointments with their probation officer. As a general rule, the court will require the accused to check in with their officer once per month.
- Restitution must be paid before the judge approves the formal probation.
- The accused will have to participate in either individual or group counseling.
- They will have to perform community service or some kind of volunteer work.
- Even in the absence of a court warrant, he or she should be willing to comply with the request of a law enforcement officer to search their private property.
- The defendant must promise to avoid contacting and harassing their victim.
- In addition, he or she needs to choose to avoid any further involvement with gangs and gang members.
- If the offender is a repeat offender, he or she is likely to serve some time behind bars.
- Throughout their probation, the defendant is prohibited from committing any crimes.
Serving Time in Jail
State law provides for mandatory minimum sentences of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in jail under California's realignment program for those convicted of gambling fraud charged as a felony.
Through participation in this program, individuals who have been found guilty of certain categories of felonies that are regarded as being less serious could be transferred from the prison (the California Department of Corrections) to the local jails. This scheme only applies to less serious offenses; it cannot be used to punish serious offenses like defrauding individuals or businesses of large amounts of money.
Under the realignment program, the defendant faces the possibility of receiving the maximum sentence applicable to his or her offense. As an alternative, the court could sentence you to a set amount of time in prison and then release you from custody to spend the remainder of your sentence under mandatory supervision. This is much like probation.
If the offender is found guilty for the first time, they could also have to pay a fine that is between $500 and $5,000, depending on the severity of the crime. The fine for repeat offenders and additional offenses will be greater and could reach $10,000.
Below are some potential punishments for someone convicted of misdemeanor gambling fraud:
- An offender faces a minimum of 6 months in jail and a maximum sentence of twelve months when the assessed value of the assets or money obtained unlawfully is above $950.
- A maximum fine of up to $10,000.
- Both the jail sentence and the fine.
Potential Legal Defenses for Gambling Fraud Offenses
While it may not appear like a serious offense at first glance, perpetrating fraud in gambling carries severe repercussions and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. That's why if you find yourself facing charges of gambling fraud, you need to speak with a seasoned criminal defense attorney immediately.
Fortunately, there are some defense arguments that your skilled criminal defense lawyer can apply to obtain a more lenient sentence or even convince the judge to dismiss your case. Among these potential defenses are:
You Had No Intent to Defraud the Victim
As is the case with every other type of fraud offense, the prosecutor is required to present evidence that demonstrates that you had the intent of defrauding your victim out of the asset or sum of money you obtained from them. If it can be proven that you did not have any intention of cheating the plaintiff out of their money, then you can not be found guilty of gambling fraud.
The plaintiff may have falsely accused you of committing the offense when in fact you were not the one who did it. Your case can be dismissed if your lawyer can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not the perpetrator.
You Were Exercising Your Right To Free Speech
Those defendants who fall under the First Amendment's protections under the United States Constitution could assert their case by emphasizing they are entitled to free expression.
The First Amendment guarantees individuals the right to exercise their freedom of religion, assembly, and expression, in addition to the ability to petition the government. In such circumstances, the United States Congress cannot favor one religion over another or forbid citizens to engage in particular religious activities.
When Advertising Your Services, You Made It Clear To Potential Customers That They Were Only For Entertainment
Astrology, foretelling, and fortune telling are only permitted if the clients do so only for fun. However, there are several notable exceptions to this rule, such as the scenario in which the fortune teller or astrologer makes a significant amount of money from their services.
Offenses Related to Gambling Fraud
Several crimes are related to or similar to gaming fraud:
California Penal Code 487: Grand Theft
All theft crimes that do not meet the criteria for petty theft fall under this category of crime. If the crime results in losses of over $950, for example, or if an object taken is of considerable value, such as a vehicle or jewelry, or when the item taken was snatched from its rightful owner, the individual could be prosecuted for grand theft.
To win this lawsuit, the prosecution needs to present evidence that you obtained the assets belonging to the plaintiff without first getting their permission and that you had the intent to do that. Taking someone's money or property by lying, cheating, or pretending during a gambling game can result in further charges of grand theft when the value of the stolen goods is greater than $950.
California Penal Code Sections 484(a) and 488: Petty Theft
This involves property theft that does not exceed $950. When whatever was stolen wasn't of substantial worth and wasn't stolen from its rightful owner forcefully, you may be subject to minor fines in addition to or instead of high gambling fraud consequences. Petty theft encompasses offenses like embezzlement, theft using tricks, and pretense.
California Penal Code 532: Theft By False Pretense
This occurs when someone is coerced into parting with money or giving up their property after being given false promises or representations. Theft through pretenses is a form of theft that could be charged along with gambling fraud if it is proven that the defendant intentionally misrepresented or pretended to be someone they were not to persuade the victim to part with cash or other valuables.
Find a Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The laws surrounding gambling fraud are complex. Unfortunately, anyone could find themselves facing serious accusations for committing the offense even though they had no intention of defrauding others. If this happens, you might want to talk to a legal professional about your situation or try to have a better understanding of the case.
If you are facing these charges, do not hesitate to get in touch with our attorneys at the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Call us today at 626-628-0564 to schedule your consultation.