An Overview of Gambling Fraud Under California Law
The provisions of California PC 332 defines gaming fraud, also known as gambling fraud, as the act of dishonestly taking goods or money from another individual through one or more of the following means:
- Betting or Gambling.
- Play cards or utilize other strategies in games like three card monte.
- Acting as if you can read fortunes.
Contrary to popular belief, this legislation does not forbid gambling. However, as stated under PC 330 and PC 337, players should adhere to specific sets of laws and regulations when it comes to gambling and bookmaking. It is important to note that engaging in gambling fraud, such as using stacked decks, card tricks, or other deceptive tactics to mislead individuals into betting on a guaranteed outcome or participating in potentially losing activities, is strictly prohibited.
The penalty for both grand theft and petty theft is determined by the severity of the crime, which is similar to that under PC 332. According to Section 332 of California law, gambling fraud is defined as the fraudulent acquisition of someone else's property or money through gaming and games like three-card Monte. This can be accomplished through the use of devices, hand tricks, fortune-telling pretenses, or even by placing bets on the hands or sides of players, plays, or games.
In this context, engaging in dishonest or unethical behavior is considered fraudulent. Therefore, behaving falsely would be equivalent to cheating or disregarding the rules of the game. It is important to note that individuals who play card games and win real money without using tricks or cheating methods are not considered to have committed this crime.
For a person to be found guilty, they must have obtained money or property from another individual through deceit and trickery. In this context, "property" encompasses items of significant value that a dishonest individual could acquire through their actions, including poker chips and tokens with monetary worth.
This term indicates that anyone can be accused of gambling fraud, including sports players, casino owners, and gamblers themselves. In jurisdictions where gambling is legal, manipulating game results is unfortunately a common occurrence. Those who participate in such activities are usually individuals who have a significant stake in each gaming session and stand to gain substantially.
Three-Card Game Scam
Many people have fallen victim to this deception, losing millions of dollars to con artists. Typically, fraudsters begin by establishing a friendly relationship with their victims through conversation. They then invite them to play cards, which is where the scheme unfolds.
Scammers use a cunning strategy to gain the trust of their victims: they allow them to win a few times in the game. Once the offer becomes more enticing, they seize the opportunity to exploit their victims. It is commonly believed that most card game scammers are friendly and helpful, persistently encouraging their victims to continue playing even after they have exhausted their funds.
Being around people who are allegedly involved in three-card game fraud can lead to problems, especially if the victim decides to report the incident to the police.
The state's gaming fraud statute not only prohibits dishonest fortune-telling but also poses a challenge due to the protection of everyone's right to free expression under the same legislation. While this protection is not entirely comprehensive, it does offer some safeguards for fortune-telling.
California PC 332 prohibits fortune reading for financial benefit, although there are several exceptions. Even if a fortune teller accepts payment for their services, they will not be considered guilty of gaming fraud under the law if, for instance, they adhere to a certain faith that permits astrology or fortune-telling. Furthermore, a fortune teller who predicts the future for amusement is also exempt from this violation.
On the other hand, if there is not enough evidence to support the notion that the astrologer or fortune teller's religion allows for such predictions, or if there is evidence that their faith prohibits such actions and that the astrologer or fortune teller is attempting to deceive unsuspecting clients, then the legal system of the state will effectively prosecute the individual for engaging in fraudulent practices to obtain financial gain through gambling.
People have always been intrigued by the prospect of learning what the future holds for them. The majority of individuals are willing to invest the necessary funds to gain insights and face life with a better understanding of what lies ahead. Even in this high-tech era, fortune tellers continue to thrive and make a significant income from their services.
Unfortunately, due to the rise in psychic scams, not just in California but worldwide, it has become necessary to implement regulations for psychic services. While certain cities in California, such as Berkeley and Oakland, currently lack specific laws against psychic practices, some municipalities have passed ordinances prohibiting fortune-telling for financial gain. In some cases, law enforcement has been involved to ensure that practitioners adhere to these regulations.
The Three-Card Monte
This confidence game, also known as Find the Lady or the Three-card Trick, involves con artists tricking victims into betting a significant amount of money. They do this by falsely claiming that the victim can identify the money card among three face-down cards used in the game. The scammers employ typical tactics, allowing the victim to win a few times before eventually losing the entire wager. Additionally, the scammers rely on charming and cunning performances to gain the trust of their targets.
Gambling Fraud Penalties
In California, the primary factor that determines the sentence for theft-related crimes is the value of the goods obtained illegally from a victim. This principle also applies to fraudulent gaming cases.
Under state law, fraud is considered a wobbler if the amount defrauded from someone exceeds $950. This means that the severity of the offense, whether it is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depends on the discretion of the prosecutor handling the case. Conversely, if the sum of money or the value of the property obtained through gaming fraud is less than $950, the case will be treated as a misdemeanor.
According to California law, if your case is considered a felony, you could be subject to the following penalties:
California Felony Probation
The purpose of this program, known as California's version of a jail alternative, is to allow felony offenders to serve all or part of their sentence under community supervision. Formal probation typically lasts for three to five years.
The probation officer should receive regular reports from the person on probation. In addition to serving time in county jail, the offender must also make reparations to the victim as part of their punishment. The probationer should adhere to all the rules, as the judge has the authority to revoke probation and impose the maximum prison or jail sentence.
The typical requirements for felony probation include the following:
- The probationer must regularly meet with their probation officer, as the judge has ordered Typically, the judge will require the defendant to communicate with his or her officer at least once per month.
- The judge's approval of formal probation is contingent upon the payment of restitution.
- The defendant will need to participate in individual or group therapy.
- The individual will be required to complete community service or engage in labor in some capacity.
- If a peace officer needs to search personal belongings, even without a warrant, individuals should consent to surrender their belongings to the officer.
- The defendant must consent to refraining from bothering his or her victims and keeping away from them.
- Additionally, individuals have to resolve not to hang out with gangs or their members.
- If the defendant is a repeat or third-time offender, he or she will likely have to serve some time in a county jail.
- Probation prohibits the defendant from committing any further crimes.
County Jail Time
Under California's realignment program, individuals convicted of felony gaming fraud face a minimum term of 16 months, a maximum sentence of 2 years, or a maximum sentence of 3 years in a county jail. This program allows for the transfer of inmates convicted of less serious charges from state prisons to nearby county jails. It is important to note that this program does not apply to serious offenses such as defrauding individuals or businesses out of significant amounts of money.
Realignment may result in the defendant serving the maximum sentence for the offense committed. Alternatively, the judge can sentence you to a specific amount of time in jail and then release you from detention for the remaining portion of the sentence. This would involve placing you under obligatory supervision, which is similar to probation.
If the defendant is a first-time offender, they could also be assessed a fine of up to $5, 000. Repeat violators and second-time offenders will face a higher fine, potentially reaching $10,000.
On the other hand, if someone is convicted of misdemeanor gaming fraud, the following consequences may apply:
- If the value of the property or money obtained illegally exceeds $950, the accused person faces a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail. However, if the value is less than $950, the defendant will still face a minimum of 6 months in jail.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
- Both the penalty and fine.
Defenses for Gambling Fraud Charges
While gambling fraud may not seem threatening at first, it carries severe penalties and can lead to a lengthy prison sentence. However, there is good news. You can use a variety of defense strategies with the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to possibly get the judge to reduce your sentence or even dismiss your case.
The following are among the potential defenses:
You Had No Desire To Defraud The Victim
In any fraud case, the prosecution must demonstrate that you had the intention to defraud your victim by taking their property or money. Likewise, in the case of gambling fraud, if it can be proven that you had no intention of misleading the plaintiff, you will not be found guilty.
Even though you did not commit the crime, the victim may have mistakenly identified you as the offender. If your lawyer can prove that you are not the one who committed the crime, your case will be dismissed.
You Were Exercising Your Freedom of Expression
Defendants protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution may present their case, using the fact that they have a right to free expression as supporting evidence. The First Amendment guarantees freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly, as well as the right to petition. Therefore, it would be unlawful for the US Congress to favor one religion over another or impose restrictions on the practice of any faith.
You Informed Potential Customers That The Services Were Solely For Entertainment Purposes
These services are only permitted when someone seeks them out for pure entertainment, such as fortune-telling, foretelling, or astrology. However, there are exceptions when the fortune teller or astrologer makes substantial profits from their profession.
Find a Long Beach Defense Lawyer Near Me
Gambling fraud is a complex felony, and individuals can face serious charges even if they have no intention of defrauding others. In such situations, it is advisable to consult a professional law firm, such as the Long Beach Criminal Attorney, to discuss your case or gain a better understanding of the offense you are accused of. Our experienced attorneys are ready to assist you and provide the guidance you need. Call us now at 562-308-7807 to discuss the potential defenses for your case.