What Does “Intent to Defraud” Mean?

What Does "Intent to Defraud" Mean?

An element of any fraud crime is the intent to defraud. This necessary element to a fraud scheme can also be understood as fraudulent intent. That is, the alleged perpetrator of the fraud must have meant to deceive someone in order to obtain an unfair or unlawful gain.

When fraud charges are brought, the government must prove that the defendant had the specific intent to defraud. Essentially, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove what was happening in the defendant’s mind.

The government must have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the defendant acted with intent to defraud. In U.S. v. Price the Court described the intent to defraud as the “willful participation in [the] scheme with knowledge of its fraudulent nature and with intent that these illicit objectives be achieved.” 623 F.2d 587, 591 (9th Cir. 1980).

Under the federal statutes prohibiting fraud against the government, the intent to defraud is a necessary element of fraud; however, it is not necessary that the alleged victims actually suffer injury, financial or otherwise. When bringing a fraud case, the prosecutor does not need to prove that the government or anyone else was actually defrauded or in any way harmed by the alleged fraud scheme. It is only necessary for the prosecutor to show that some actual harm or injury was intended by the alleged schemer.

What constitutes fraud varies by statute. The specific elements of each fraud crime is codified in federal and state criminal law statutes. Since fraud can occur in many different ways, in nearly any industry, it cannot be easily defined. In any case, fraud always includes the intent to defraud.

Defending Against Criminal Charges for a Fraud Crime

If you are charged with fraud, it is critical that you hire an experienced fraud defense attorney. Conviction for a fraud crime can carry severe penalties, including imprisonment and hefty fines. Your freedom is on the line.

As a former fraud prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office, Ashley D. Adams understands the government’s tactics and knows how to establish the best possible defense for your case. Given her prior work, she also has a longstanding and positive relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Justice. Put Ashley D. Adam’s experience to work for you.

If you are facing charges for fraud or any white collar crime, we urge you to contact us right away for a consultation. The sooner we begin our investigation, the sooner we can implement all available legal strategies to defend you.

Contact us or call now (480) 219-1366 for a case evaluation.


Our firm handles state criminal cases throughout Arizona and federal criminal cases throughout the United States, including Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, and California.