Theft, Fraud, and White Collar Crime

Attorney Richard M. Oberto is an experienced white collar defense attorney. White collar cases may involve allegations such as theft, fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, and others. The cases may require knowledge of financial matters such as banking, insurance, mortgages, automobile loans, worker's compensation, and taxation. Some cases require knowledge of government programs and policies related to contracts or public benefits. Mr. Oberto has a breadth of knowledge and experience in public and private sector financial matters.

Prosecution’s Burden of Proving Intent to Defraud

Many White Collar cases require that the prosecution prove that the accused person had an intent to defraud. The intent requires that the prosecution prove not only that a transaction occurred, but also that the accused person intended to deceive another person so as to cause certain types of loss or damage. By working closely with clients and scrutinizing the relevant documents, Mr. Oberto has been able to show law enforcement authorities that the evidence did not demonstrate an intent to defraud.

Prefiling Investigations

A person may become aware of investigation efforts prior to the filing of any White Collar criminal charges. The pre-filing stage provides an excellent opportunity for a defense attorney to evaluate the case. The defense attorney may find that he needs to intervene in some respect to protect the client's legal rights and interests. The defense attorney also may be able to furnish law enforcement authorities with information and analysis demonstrating that charges should not be filed.

Theft Offenses

Theft offenses include such crimes a larceny, embezzlement, theft by false pretense, and theft by trick. California law defines two degrees of theft: Grand and Petty. The distinction between the two degrees depends on the type of item that was allegedly stolen and the alleged value.

Grand Theft under Penal Code section 487(a) generally requires proof that the value of the property stolen exceeded $950. Certain cases involving agriculture produce, seafood, and real property require a value exceeding only $250, and certain cases involving fraud against a public housing authority require a value exceeding only $400.

Grand Theft also also can be alleged based on the type of property stolen. The following types of cases may be punishable as Grand Theft regardless of the value of the property: firearm, automobile, and livestock theft; access card fraud; theft from the person of another; and theft of precious metals from a mining operation.

Petty Theft requires that the value of stolen property was below the threshold for Grand Theft.

In most cases, that means a value of $950 or less.

Punishments for Theft

Grand Theft is generally a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. As a felony, the offense is generally punishable by imprisonment of 16 months or two or three years or up to a year in the county jail. An exception applies when the theft involves a firearm. A person convicted of stealing a firearm is not eligible for a county jail sentence.

Petty theft is generally punishable as a misdemeanor. An exception applies when the value of stolen property was $50 or less, in which case the charge can be an infraction. The misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000.

A person who has a prior theft conviction can be charged in certain circumstances with a felony for a new Petty Theft offense. The person is subject to a felony charge when has a prior conviction not only for a theft offense, but also for a “serious” or “violent” felony or a registrable sex offense.


Like Theft, the crime of Extortion generally requires proof that the accused person unlawfully took property from the owner. Extortion also can occur when a person unlawfully takes someone’s signature. The main difference between Theft and Extortion is that a person charged with Extortion must have coerced the owner to “consent” to the taking. The element of “coercion” requires proof of illegal threat or force. Extortion can be charged as a felony and can result in substantial imprisonment and fines.

Representation when Person’s Reputation is at Risk.

White collar cases place the accused person’s liberty and hard-earned reputation at stake. A person should ensure his attorney will comb through the evidence, understands the relevant business practices, and provide the best legal representation.

Mr. Oberto welcomes people to contact him 24/7 at (559) 221-2557 to request an initial consultation. Se habla Espanol.

People also may contact Mr. Oberto to request an initial consultation using the contact form available on this website. Please do not use the contact form to write down sensitive information. Information communicated over the internet, including through this website, may not be considered confidential or privileged.

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