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Fraud is Not Just a Criminal Matter

Two women from Broward County have been charged with fraud by federal authorities in connection with a criminal immigration scheme. Marie Nicole Dorval, 43, of Coral Springs and Jetta McPhee, 59, of Tamarac are accused of luring more than 140 people from Haiti to come to South Florida by promising to get them green cards and jobs working on farms or in construction.  Each potential immigrant had paid as much as $3,500 before discovering it was all a lie.

Under the law, fraud can be described as a false promise or scheme that causes a person to suffer an injury or monetary loss because they relied on it. There are many types of fraud, including consumer fraud, insurance fraud and immigration fraud. While fraud is a criminal offense and can lead to prosecution, it can also be the basis of a civil action (i.e., not criminal) under Florida law. There are even some types of fraudulent theft cases in Florida where the victim can recover treble damages.

The elements of a civil fraud lawsuit

In a civil fraud case there are several important elements that will need to be proven, including:

  • Misrepresentation — The plaintiff must prove the defendant lied or intentionally misrepresented an important fact and did so with the purpose of causing the plaintiff to do something they otherwise would not have done.
  • Reliance — It is not enough to show the defendant intentionally lied; the victim must also show that they acted or failed to take action based on the misrepresentation of information by the fraudulent party.
  • Damages — The plaintiff will have to show they were injured or lost money or property because they reasonably relied on the misrepresentation.

For example, if a store fraudulently tried to pass off last year’s model appliance, the buyer claiming fraud will have to show their purchase was made because they were told it was new.

In any situation when you feel you have been defrauded it is best to seek the advice of qualified Florida injury attorneys who can investigate and work with the authorities handling the criminal case. The Law Offices of Cohn & Smith, P.A. has handled all types of personal injury cases in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and other areas of Florida.

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