18 U.S.C. § 1002 - Possession of False Papers to Defraud the United States
The federal criminal code contains dozens of laws pertaining to various types of fraud, from making general false statements defined under 18 U.S.C. 1001 to making fraudulent bank reports defined under 18 U.S.C. 1005.
Other federal statutes that criminalize fraud in connection with the government include 18 U.S.C 1007, which imposes penalties for fraud connected with transactions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
18 U.S.C. 1010 defines fraud offenses in connection with transactions with the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Federal Housing Administration.
The act of possessing false, forged, or counterfeit documents intended to defraud the United States is a federal crime under Title 18 U.S.C. 1002. You could face up to five years in federal prison if you're convicted of this crime.
Federal criminal charges are typically more challenging for defendants because of the endless resources the federal government can devote to an investigation.
Further, the penalties are usually more severe when you are convicted of a federal offense. This means retaining an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is crucial in reducing the chance of conviction or limiting the penalties you face. Let's review this federal law in more detail below.
What Does the Law Say?
The text is relatively short and general, leaving federal prosecutors with a wide range of interpretations.
18 U.S.C. 1002 says, “Whoever, knowingly and with intent to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof, possesses any false, altered, forged, or counterfeited writing or document for the purpose of enabling another to obtain from the United States, or from any agency, officer or agent thereof, any sum of money, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
The idea behind this law is that beyond simply lying to the government to obtain money fraudulently, any false documentation created to support a fraudulent claim is also considered illegal.
This means that if you possess false documents intending to use them in any scheme to swindle money from the federal government, your actions could be subject to criminal prosecution. Examples of false documents that could be used for fraud include, but are not limited to:
- False identification papers, such as impersonating someone else to receive government benefits;
- Forged bank statements created to inflate your income to qualify for a government-backed loan;
- A forged social security card containing the SSN of a deceased individual to get unemployment benefits.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Fred is trying to obtain a Fannie Mae mortgage to buy a home, but he doesn't qualify with his current income. He creates a false bank statement with entries adjusted to change his monthly income to meet the qualifications.
Regardless of whether he obtains the loan or is charged with other crimes, Fred could face federal charges under 18 U.S.C. 1002 simply for having the false bank statement in his possession.
EXAMPLE 2: Mary is an undocumented immigrant who has purchased a fake social security card with the SSN of someone who died years ago. She uses this false identification to obtain an employer-provided health plan and other benefits.
If Mary is discovered and charged, she could face federal charges under 18 U.S.C. 1002 for possessing a false document intended to defraud the United States.
EXAMPLE 3: Arnold works for the local unemployment office. His friend, Jenny, works part-time as a freelancer but applies for unemployment, providing false documentation that understates her income.
Arnold knows the documents are fake, but he accepts them and puts them in her file to process her application. As a result, Arnold can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 1002 for possessing false documents intended to help his friend fraudulently.
What Crimes Are Often Charged Along with 18 US.C. 1002?
Violations of 18 U.S.C. 1002 often occur in tandem with other federal crimes, which may also be charged. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1341 - Mail fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1343 - Wire fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1344 - Bank fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1956 - Money laundering;
- 18 U.S.C. 7201 - Tax evasion.
What Are the Related Federal Statutes?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 47, fraud and false statements, contains several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1002, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1001 - Making false statements;
- 18 U.S.C. 1003 - Demands against the United States;
- 18 U.S.C. 1004 - Certification of checks;
- 18 U.S.C. 1005 - False bank entries, reports;
- 18 U.S.C. 1006 - Federal credit institution entries;
- 18 U.S.C. 1007 - Federal Deposit Insurance transactions;
- 18 U.S.C. 1010 - Federal Housing Administration transactions;
- 18 U.S.C. 1011 - Federal land bank mortgage transactions;
- 18 U.S.C. 1012 - Department of Housing and Urban Development;
- 18 U.S.C. 1013 - Farm loan bonds and credit bank debentures;
- 18 U.S.C. 1014 - Loan and credit applications generally;
- 18 U.S.C. 1015 - Naturalization, citizenship or alien registry
- 18 U.S.C. 1016 - Acknowledgment of appearance or oath;
- 18 U.S.C. 1017 - Government seals wrongfully used;
- 18 U.S.C. 1018 - Official certificates or writings;
- 18 U.S.C. 1019 - Certificates by consular officers;
- 18 U.S.C. 1020 - Highway projects;
- 18 U.S.C. 1021 - Title records;
- 18 U.S.C. 1022 - Delivery of certificate, voucher;
- 18 U.S.C. 1023 - Insufficient delivery of money;
- 18 U.S.C. 1024 - Purchase or receipt of military property;
- 18 U.S.C. 1025 - False pretenses on high seas;
- 18 U.S.C. 1026 – Compromise of farm indebtedness;
- 18 U.S.C. 1027 - False statements and concealment of facts;
- 18 U.S.C. 1028 - Fraud connected with ID documents;
- 18 U.S.C. 1028A - Aggravated identity theft;
- 18 U.S.C. 1029 - Fraud connected with access devices;
- 18 U.S.C. 1030 - Fraud connected with computers;
- 18 U.S.C. 1031 - Major fraud against the United States;
- 18 U.S.C. 1032 - Concealment of assets from conservator;
- 18 U.S.C. 1033 - Crimes affecting business insurance;
- 18 U.S.C. 1034 - Civil penalties for violations of section 1033;
- 18 U.S.C. 1035 - False statements relating to health care;
- 18 U.S.C. 1036 - Entry by false pretenses to any real property;
- 18 U.S.C. 1037 - Fraud connected with electronic mail;
- 18 U.S.C. 1038 - False information and hoaxes;
- 18 U.S.C. 1039 - Fraud connected with phone records;
- 18 U.S.C. 1040 - Fraud connected with emergency benefits.
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 1002?
Violating 18 U.S.C. 1002 is a serious federal crime. Conviction may result in a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years of imprisonment, or both.
Additionally, those convicted under this statute are likely to face restitution payments, which means they must pay back any funds obtained through their fraudulent activities.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1002?
To convict you of a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. 1002, prosecutors must demonstrate that you possessed false documents and did so willfully and with intent to defraud. Thus, most defenses against this charge involve disproving one or more of these elements. Let's review them below.
Perhaps we can argue that you were not knowingly in possession of false documents. For example, in the case of Arnold above, if he believed Jenny's documents were genuine, he would not be guilty under 18 U.S.C. 1002 because his actions were not willful.
Perhaps we can argue that you had no intent to defraud the government. For example, maybe you created false documents to test your skills, but you did not intend to use the documents to commit fraud.
If you are under investigation or indicted for possessing false, forged, or counterfeit documents intended to defraud the United States, contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form to review the details and legal options.
Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, California. We provide legal representation for federal criminal matters across the United States.