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Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty in College Admission Scandal

Thumbnail image for AdobeStock_80814322.jpegThe former Desperate Housewives star admitted in court that she bribed admissions officials to help her daughter attend college.

According to court documents, Huffman paid $15,000 to a college entrance exam cheating service on behalf of her eldest daughter. Actor William H. Macy, Huffman's husband, was not named in the indictment. After pleading guilty, she faces a maximum 20 years in prison.

"I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney's Office. I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions," she said in a statement.

Fraud Allegations in Texas

Since the criminal activity generally crosses state lines, most fraud cases are typically federal crimes. Even if you send an e-mail or online application to an in-state recipient at a locally-owned bank, the computer or server on either end probably had out-of-state components. That makes the crime a federal one.

So, while they are illegal under state law, most mortgage fraud and other false statement crimes are federal matters. Most state law fraud crimes are one of the following:

  • Check Forgery: This offense usually falls under state law because the crime is complete once the actor presents a fraudulent check. That fraud could be a fake signature, unauthorized endorsement, altered amount, or any similar unauthorized change. If there is an underlying dispute over the proper payee or amount or whatever, that's probably not fraud.

  • Credit Card Abuse: Once again, this offense is complete when a person tries to use a stolen or fake credit card. If the merchant catches the fraud and refuses to complete the transaction, the defendant still committed credit card abuse. An honest mistake, however, usually is not fraud.

Intent is usually very important in fraud cases. And, this element is often difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

What to Expect in a Tarrant County Fraud Case

Almost all criminal cases settle out of court. In nonviolent cases, especially if the defendant has no criminal record, pretrial diversion is usually available, even in a felony. That's especially true if, as is normally the case, no money actually changed hands.

Program requirements vary in different courts. But generally, if the defendant completes a class or jumps through some other legal hoops, stays out of trouble for a few months, and pays a small fee, the prosecutor dismisses the charges.

A trial is often a good option as well, because there are lots of moving parts in fraud and other theft cases. Even if there is no legal or factual defense, a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney may be able to beat the case on a technicality.

The charging documents must usually name a complaining witness, typically the "owner" who was allegedly defrauded. The trial is usually at least several months after the arrest. By that time, many owners have either lost interest in the case, especially if they did not actually lose any money, or they have moved outside the court's 150-mile subpoena range.

A fraud conviction could mean prison time, but there are defenses available. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.

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