Gambling has become more popular in recent years, not just in California but in other parts of the US. A lot of things happen as people play together or against each other. Some winners win genuinely, but some win through manipulation of gambling outcomes, which is illegal. Huge winnings have been reported over the years from gambling fraud, and for this reason, a winner may end up facing a gambling fraud charge even when they know too well that their win was legitimate. If this ever happens to you, you can contact the LA Criminal Defense Attorney to help prove your innocence.
Gambling Fraud under Penal Code 332
According to Penal Code 332, gaming fraud, also known as gambling fraud entails fraudulently obtaining property or money from another person through one or more of the following:
- Gambling or Betting
- Card games or other tricks that can be used on such games as three card monte
- Pretending to be a fortune-teller
Contrary to what many people may think, this law doesn’t outlaw gambling, though gambling and bookmaking have different sets of rules and regulations that players must adhere to as per Sections 330 and 337 of California Penal Code. However, gambling fraud makes it illegal to use stacked decks, card tricks, and such schemes to trick unsuspecting people into gambling on a guaranteed win and such activities which could result in losses.
Penalties for this crime are akin to penalties provided under Section 332 for petty theft and grand theft, depending on the severity of the crime.
According to Section 332 of California law, the legal definition of gambling/gaming fraud will, therefore, be fraudulently procuring another person's property or money through gaming and games such as three-card monte, through use of a device, or a trick of the hand and pretensions of telling one’s fortune or even by placing a bet on the hands or sides of any player, play or game.
Fraudulently, in this case, will apply when one acts dishonestly, in bad faith or without integrity and moral turpitude. To act fraudulently will, therefore, include cheating or failing to abide by the guidelines of the game. People who play genuinely and win money in such games as card games, without the use of any tricks or any form of cheating, will not be guilty of this crime.
For a person to be considered guilty, he/she must have won property or money from another person through tricks and cheating. The word property is used here to refer to anything of significant value a fraudulent player may gain from his/her actions, including poker chips and/or tokens of some monetary value.
From this definition, it is clear that anyone can be charged with Gambling Fraud, including gamblers, people who run gambling establishments and also sports players. Manipulation of gaming outcomes is a common practice in areas where gambling is allowed, and people who are involved in this are usually those who end up pocketing huge winnings every time they participate in gaming.
The Three Card Game Scam
A lot of people fall prey to this scam and have lost millions of dollars to fraudsters. How it happens is that a fraudster will begin by creating a friendly rapport with his/her victim, which is usually done by holding a conversation with them before he/she invites the victims for a game of cards. Fraudsters will allow their victims to win a few times at the beginning of the game, to gain their confidence, and when the offer gets more attractive, they will strike. Most card game fraudsters are believed to be very friendly and encouraging, pushing their victims into the game even after all their victim’s money runs out.
Being in the company of people believed to be three-card-game scammers can land you into trouble especially if the victim reports the matter to the police.
The Three-Card Monte
The is a game of confidence, also called the Three-card Trick or the Find the Lady, and it entails a victim being tricked into placing a considerable sum of money into a bet on the assumption that he/she can find the money card among three cards that are placed face-down by fraudsters who are playing the cards. As usual, the scammer will act so smart and friendly to win your confidence and just like in the game above, the victim is allowed to win a few times, and when he/she places the biggest bet, he/she loses the game and all the money.
If anyone acts as the accomplice in such a game, pretending to conspire with the victim to cheat the dealer while in an actual sense he/she is colluding with the dealer to scam the victim, he/she can be charged with gambling fraud. The same will apply to the dealer of such games and anyone else that is believed to participate in the scam.
Such crimes as Gaming Fraud are quite severe in California, and so, they can attract very severe penalties. Defendants are therefore urged to understand their rights and know what possible defenses are there to avoid being sentenced of criminal offenses.
Fortune Telling Fraud
Deceitful fortune telling is another activity that is prohibited under the state's gambling fraud law. This is, however, a very tricky part of the law, since the same law advocates for everyone's rights to free speech, which is enough to protect fortune telling, though by a certain percentage.
Under Section 332 of California Penal Code, fortune telling for financial gain is illegal, though it can be permitted under certain circumstances. If for instance, the fortune teller believes in a particular religion and that religion allows fortune telling or astrology, the law will not find him/her guilty of gaming fraud even if he/she receives money for the services. A fortune teller who foretells the future for fun will also not be guilty of this offense.
If on the other hand there is no sufficient evidence that the fortune teller's or astrologer's religion allows such predictions or there is evidence that their faith does not accept such activities and that the fortune-teller is looking for a way to defraud unsuspecting people, such a person can be successfully prosecuted under the State's law for obtaining property or money through gambling fraud.
It is important to note that seeking answers for what might be ahead in one's life is something that has been around for a very long time. Majority of people want to face life knowing what lies ahead of them, even if it means paying the right amount of money for it. Even in the high-tech world, fortune tellers are reaping big out of their services.
However, psychic services have to be regulated due to increasing cases of psychic scams not just in the state of California but the entire world. Some cities in California do not have specific laws for psychic activities, for example, Berkeley and Oakland. Other cities have ordinances against fortune telling for money, and in some instances, police departments are used to ensure that fortune tellers do not cross the line.
Other Types of Gambling Fraud Crimes
The crime of gambling fraud can be committed in any game of chance, including such games as online poker and sports betting. Some of the different types of such a crime are:
Game rigging, sports fixing or match-fixing
This is mostly done on games that are played to achieve a specific predetermined result, but tricks are used to enrich fraudsters at the expense of players and bookmakers.
This involves players who use poker bots or those work with other players to collusively manipulate some gaming policies in their favor. In places where poker bots are not allowed, some players can activate them without the knowledge of other players, after that, making huge profits at the expense of other players.
This is whereby a scammer offers a player some insider information at a fee, promising him/her guaranteed profits. In most cases, this form of fraud is common on horse racing, though scammers have extended the trick to other sports. A scammer will approach unsuspecting better offering insider information or fool-proof systems that could help make unbelievable profits from gambling. More advanced betting fraudsters are offering brochures to gamblers, which supposedly introduce gamers to the insider world of sports betting. Some will require a player to pay a subscription fee to have the insider information sent to them
Sidestepping gambling laws by gamers or gaming establishments
If this is done for the sole benefit of the gambler or the gaming establishment, leaving some players counting huge losses, the gamer or operator of the gaming establishment could be charged with gambling fraud. Gambling is a well-regulated activity in California. Some forms of gambling are legal while others are illegal. There are rules and regulations in place too, which should be strictly adhered to, failure to which perpetrators can be charged with such crimes as gambling fraud.
Some fraudsters target people who run fraudulent online gaming platforms to obtain players' personal and financial information that can be used for identity theft or other scamming activities.
Foreign lottery scams
This can be considered as gambling fraud if people are charged money to participate in lotteries or to obtain prizes from such lotteries. In most cases, the said prizes are never real, and the lotteries do not even exist, but the victims are usually told they have won and asked to deposit a certain amount of money, which in most cases is a significant amount, to pay for taxes or to facilitate the processing of the payments.
Penalties for Gambling Fraud
In California, punishments for crimes involving theft depend mainly on the financial value of what has been acquired illegally from a victim. The same applies to gambling fraud.
If the value of what you defraud another person exceeds $950, the crime will be handled as a wobbler under the state law. This means that you can be convicted of either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the prosecutor handling your case.
If on the other hand, the amount of money or the worth of the property acquired through gambling fraud is less than $950, the case will be handled as a misdemeanor.
If your case is treated as a felony, there are possible penalties you could face according to California Penal Code:
Felony probation or California formal probation
This is California's alternative to prison, and it is given to allow a person convicted of a felony offense to serve all or part of his/her sentence in the community but under supervision. In most cases, formal probation will last between three and five years. The person on probation is required to report regularly to an officer in charge of probation. In addition to the punishment, the defendant is required to pay restitution to his/her victim as well as do some jail time in county jail.
The probationer is not expected to violate any of the given conditions because the judge may revoke his/her probation, and then send him/her to prison or jail for a maximum term as provided by the law.
Some of the prevailing conditions of felony probation include:
- The probationer must meet with his/her probation officer as often as the judge orders. In most cases, the judge will want the defendant to be in touch with his/her officer at least once every month
- Payment of restitution is a must condition for the judge to agree to a formal probation
- The defendant will be required to take part in separate or group therapy
- He/she will be required to perform some form of community labor or community service
- He/she should agree to give in to a peace officer in case there will need to search his/her personal property, even without a warrant
- The defendant should agree to stay away and not to harass his/her victims
- He/she should also decide not to associate with a gang or gang members
- The defendant will have to spend some of his time in a county jail especially if he is a second or third offender
- The defendant will not be allowed to commit any crime while on probation
Time in a county jail
If found guilty of felony gambling fraud, a defendant could be sentenced to at least 16 months, two years or three years in a county jail under the state's realignment program. This program allows certain people who are convicted of certain types of felonies considered as less severe to be realigned from the state prison (Department of Corrections) to local county jails. This program is strictly for less severe crimes and so, cannot apply to serious crimes such as defrauding people or companies vast sums of money.
Under realignment, the defendant may be sent to jail for the maximum time allowed for your type of crime. Alternatively, the judge may convict you to a certain period of jail time, and then place you out of custody for the remaining time, on mandatory supervision, which is very similar to probation
The defendant could also be charged a fine of not more than $5000 if he/she is a first-time offender. Second-time and subsequent offenders will be fined a higher amount that can go up to $10000.
If on the other hand, one is found guilty of misdemeanor gaming fraud, here are some possible penalties he/she could face:
- If the value of what has been acquired fraudulently is more than $950, the defendant could get a maximum of twelve months in county jail, or at least six months if the value of the property or money is below $950
- A fine of a maximum of $10000
- Both the fine and sentence
Possible Defenses for Gambling Fraud
Gambling fraud may not seem dangerous, but penalties for this crime are quite steep and can land you in prison for an extended period. This is the reason why you need to consult an LA criminal defense attorney as soon as allegations of gambling fraud are made. Fortunately, there are several defense strategies that an experienced criminal defense attorney can utilize to get leaner sentencing or even get the judge to drop your case. Some of these possible defenses include:
- You did not intend to defraud your victim
Just like every other fraud crime, the prosecutor has to provide proof that you intended to deceive your victim off the property or amount of money you acquired from him/her. If it is established that indeed you did not intend to defraud the plaintiff, you will not be guilty of committing gambling fraud.
- You are a victim of mistaken identity
The plaintiff could have mistakenly identified you as the perpetrator of the crime even though you did not commit the crime. If your attorney can prove that you are not the one that committed the crime, your case will be dropped.
- You were exercising your right to free speech
Defendants who are protected by the First Amendment of the US constitution can argue their case based on the facts that they have a right to free speech. According to the First Amendment, there is freedom about religion, assembly, expression as well as the power to petition. In that case, the US Congress is not allowed to promote one religion over others as well as restrict people from certain individual religious practices.
- You informed your potential clients that the services were for pure entertainment
Fortune telling, foretelling, and astrology are only allowed if the people seeking the services do so out of pure enjoyment. However, there are exceptions, for instance in case the astrologer or fortune teller pockets enormous sums of money out of that practice.
Related Offenses to Gambling Fraud
Certain offenses are similar or related to gambling fraud:
Grand theft as per Section 487 of the California Law
This is the crime that covers all those theft offenses that will not qualify as petty thefts. If the robbery causes a loss of more than $950, for instance, or an item stolen is of great value, say a car, or a gun or the thing taken was grabbed from its owner, the person could be charged with grand theft.
To prove such a case, there must be evidence that the defendant acquired the plaintiff’s property without the plaintiff’s consent and that the defendant had the intention to do so.
If you knowingly and intentionally deceived another person or you take their property of money through fraud or pretense in a gambling game, and the property is worth more than $950, you could be charged with grand theft alongside gambling fraud.
Petty theft as per Sections 484 (a) and 488
This is a case of theft that involves the property of a value below $950. If the property that was stolen was not of a significant amount and it was not taken directly from its owner by force, you could face minor penalties alongside or in place of steep gambling fraud penalties.
Petty theft includes such crimes as theft by false pretense, theft by embezzlement, and theft by trick.
Theft by false pretense as per Section 532
This happens when a person is made to give out money or turn over their property after they are promised something or representation which turns out to be a lie. If it is established that a person intentionally deceived another through false representation or pretense just so they can get some money or something valuable from their victims and the victim relied on that false promise, then the person can be charged with theft by false Pretense alongside Gambling Fraud.
If you are being charged with a crime feel free to contact our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer for a free consultation.