Campaign Finance Fraud
In New York, campaign finance fraud is likely to be charged as a false instrument offense, with the instrument being the illegal contributions. State and federal law both set limits on the source and amount of money that may be contributed to a candidate or their authorized campaign committee, and specifically prohibits anyone from making contributions in another person’s name or offering reimbursements as incentive to contribute.
Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree is a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison, while Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree is a class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail.
Election Law § 14-120(1) also requires all campaign contributions to be under the real name of the contributor, and failure to do so is a misdemeanor. Exceeding established campaign limits is a violation of Election Law § 14-126(4) and punished as a misdemeanor.
Campaign finance fraud and other cases that hint at some form of political corruption or wrongdoing typically draw media attention, and the resulting upheaval in a defendant’s life can be catastrophic. If convicted, prison time and / or fines will follow. It is important for anyone accused of this type of fraud to consult with an experienced New York criminal defense attorney immediately.
Falsifying business records, grand larceny, public corruption, scheme to defraud
Mental disease / defect, false accusation, and proven lack of intent to knowingly commit an illegal act can all be presented as defenses.
Campaign finance fraud is addressed in the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Election Act), which was passed to limit financial influence in the election of federal office candidates. Direct corporate contributions to federal candidates and national party committees are also disallowed.
Anyone convicted of campaign finance fraud in a federal court can face up to 25 years in prison and over $1 million in fines, depending on the severity of the offense.
On May 20, 2014 conservative commentator and author Dinesh D’Souza, 53, pleaded guilty to violating the federal election campaign law by making illegal contributions to a U.S. Senate campaign in the names of other people. In contravention of the Federal Election Campaign Act, which limits campaign contributions to $5,000 per individual for a single candidate, D’Souza directed other parties to make contributions to Wendy Long’s 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate, saying he would reimburse them. D’Souza admitted in court that he knew that he was committing an illegal act.
The illegal contributions totaled $20,000, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. D’Sousa was also charged with count of causing false statements to be made to the FEC, which carries a maximum 5-year sentence.