The term “honest services” refers to the duty of certain people, particularly public officials and employees, to act in the best interests of their employers or the public and to avoid conflicts of interest, self-dealing or acts of corruption. When someone uses their position for personal gain or engages in actions that violate this duty, they can be charged with honest services fraud.
While this concept was initially applied to cases of public corruption, it has since been extended to encompass various types of fraudulent activities in both the public and private sectors, and it’s a federal crime. If convicted, you can face extensive fines and up to 20 years in prison, per count.
What are some examples of honest services fraud?
Broadly speaking, honest services fraud can involve kickback schemes, bribery and breaches of fiduciary duty for one’s own gain. Examples include:
- An elite university’s soccer coach takes bribes from parents to “recruit” their sons and daughters for the team so that their admission to university
- A mayor fails to disclose that he has stock in the company that he just recommended for a lucrative city vending contract
- A pharmaceutical company gives a few doctors kickbacks for prescribing and promoting a new medication in the form of all-expense-paid vacations and hefty speaking fees
Honest services fraud is aggressively prosecuted, largely because the victim in every case is deemed to be the state or the public (or both).
If you’ve been charged with honest services fraud, it’s normal to be scared and confused. The charges alone can cause havoc in your personal and professional worlds, and a conviction would be devastating. Legal guidance from someone with experience in white collar criminal defenses can help you understand the specifics of your situation and make informed decisions about your options.