The following is a general guide for educational purposes and does not represent a legal opinion. We recommend that you contact a competent licensed attorney or solicitor before taking any legal action.
Can You Use Law Suits To Recover Your Money?
In many cases, the answer may be yes!
First, it is important to understand what the limitations are on suing someone in your country. For this, we suggest that you do your research AND talk to a civil litigator to review your options and to develop a viable strategy.
You will need to understand any rights (if any) and what your chances of success may be.
For example: If you are a scam victim in the United States and you sent money to a money mule in the United State you might be able to recover some of your money by suing the Money Mule as a co-defendant in a civil complaint for fraud.
Remember, our role is not to educate you about the law or how to file a lawsuit, it is just to suggest an option that you can explore.
What Is Fraud?
Fraud is defined as an intentional deception committed by a person who acts deceitfully and unlawfully in order to obtain something of value. Types of fraud include tax fraud, credit card fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, Social Security fraud, and bankruptcy fraud. Those who are accused of fraud are subject to fines and jail time. But if the police and prosecutors will not act, civil litigation is a possible route and under your direct control.
Fraud occurs when someone gains something of value, usually money or property, from a victim by knowingly making a false statement or misrepresentation of a matter of fact, or potentially being an accessory to fraud.
While fraud itself is an independent criminal charge, it can also appear in other charges as the means used or the intent required in the commission of a crime.
For example, identity theft charges often require that a defendant is accused of stealing another’s personal information with the intent to defraud them. Although a fraud scheme would be involved, that defendant could be charged with identity theft or criminal use of personal identification information violation rather than fraud – depending on the state.
It is important to explore with your attorney all possible charges that could be made against those participating in scams to determine which are appropriate in each state or territory or country.
What Is Civil Fraud?
Conduct that constitutes civil fraud is incapable of precise definition, but it usually includes some type of deceitful, dishonest, or unfair behavior. The primary difference between civil fraud and criminal fraud is that to succeed on a claim for civil fraud there must be damages; that is, someone must suffer a tangible injury. Criminal fraud can be prosecuted even if unsuccessful.
As a scam victim, the money you lost is those damages (not your emotional distress.) Though, that may help with punitive damages that might be awarded in the case
Claims for civil fraud are usually based on fraudulent misrepresentation or inducement. Although all states may have slightly different elements that must be met to maintain a fraud action, commonly plaintiff (scam victim) must prove a misrepresentation, concealment, or deceit as to a material fact, the defendant’s knowledge as to the falsity of the representation, the defendant’s intention to induce the reliance by the plaintiff, actual reliance on the representation by the plaintiff to the detriment of the plaintiff, and the plaintiff suffered an injury as a result.
Consider: a money mule may be a scam victim themself. However, did the Mule suspect something was not right or even illegal in the money they received? The mule may have had knowledge of a deception through their suspicions, and their failure to act may be the basis for their culpability.
An important component of proving civil fraud is that any damages must be the proximate result of the fraud (meaning the money you actually lost.)
Compensatory and punitive damages are potential remedies in a civil fraud case.
What Do I Have To Show To Win A Lawsuit For Fraud?
You must show that you were genuinely deceived by the misrepresentations given to win a lawsuit for fraud. You must also show that the person making the statement knew it was an outright lie or that they were involved in a fraud. In the case of a money mule, they may have been a direct participant or an accessory to the fraud – your attorney will help you make these decisions.
Another Potential Approach: Misappropriation Of Funds
While many people are familiar with the term embezzlement, most are less are aware of what misappropriation of funds means.
While both offenses hinge on the unlawful use of another person’s assets, usually in a business setting (but not always,) misappropriation of funds refers to taking of money only and not other forms of property.
Elements Of Misappropriation:
To be liable for misappropriating funds, a case must establish that a defendant
- Was entrusted with possession or control of funds belonging to another person, entity, or organization (meaning the scam victim)
- Knowingly misappropriated the money or took an action that resulted in the misappropriation of funds
- Used the money for his or her own purposes, which can include transferring it to another bank account or refusing to deliver it upon demand by the owner
- While many misappropriation cases are tried in state court, cases involving particularly large sums may also be prosecuted in federal court.
Other Reasons For a Civil Complaint
Scam victims especially almost never have a chance to have “their day in court” or face the criminal that deceived them. However, filing a lawsuit is an opportunity to tell your story and seek justice.
Mules are in many cases unknowing participants in these scams, but as every victim knows, there were moments of clarity when you knew or suspected it was a scam. For a regular scam victim, this was your own mistake and one that affected you only. But in the case of a Money Mule, this profoundly harms others and there is (or at least there should be) a different level of responsibility to others.
If the money mule receives money from victims and forwards it to a criminal they are typically considered to be Aiding and Abetting. Meaning: To assist someone in committing to commit a crime. Generally, an aider and abettor is criminally liable to the same extent as the principal. Also called “aid or abet” and “counsel and procure.”
To Abet means: To criminally assist another person in the commission of a crime including in the actual commission of the crime (such as receiving the proceeds of the crime – your money.)
They may also be defined as an Accomplice. Meaning they are a person who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally gives assistance to another in (or in some cases fails to prevent another from) the commission of a crime. An accomplice is criminally liable to the same extent as the principal. An accomplice, unlike an accessory, is typically present when the crime is committed – meaning they received the money in this context.
Is It Morally Right?
This is a hard question and something each person must answer.
We know that most money mules are scam victims themselves, BUT NOT ALL OF THEM ARE! Some are taking a commission or percentage from the money collected for their benefit. Those that are victims themselves are double victims because they lost their own money and then (in many cases) unknowingly participated in defrauding others.
But it comes down to personal responsibility
If a mule suspects they are involved in a scam they have an obligation to notify the police immediately to mitigate the harm to other victims. Most mules, even after they find the truth never come forward. By their silence, they enable the scammer to continue their crime spree.
The mule has a duty to try to prevent more harm.
However, in the end, each participant has to make their own decisions about what is right or wrong.
We recommend, that if you feel that the mule is also a victim, but want to have your day in court to tell your story on the record and perhaps express your opinion of law enforcement’s overall failures, then sue for just $1.00 – so that they is a determination that the mule should not have been involved, but you are not victimizing them again – but this is your choice.
In our opinion, the civil process allows for more discussion and recognition of the problem.