How to file an estafa case

Estafa is the legal term for the criminal offense of swindling. It is when someone represents themselves as someone else or as someone who says they can do things they cannot, with such fraud resulting in the victim suffering damages.

Damages may refer to the loss of money, personal property, or valuables as a result of deceit. Together with fraud, these are the elements that have to be present for a case to qualify as estafa. The Philippine law considers estafa or swindling as a serious offense in the Philippines. It involves deceit or false pretense to defraud another and cause damage or prejudice.

Under Article 315 of the Philippine law, the amount of the fraud will determine the penalty for estafa.

For an act of defrauding another involving an amount not exceeding 200 Philippine pesos, the penalty for estafa is arresto mayor in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos, or both. If the amount involved exceeds 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000 pesos, the penalty for estafa is prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both.

When the amount involved is more than 6,000 pesos but does not exceed 12,000 pesos, the penalty for estafa is prision correccional in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its minimum period, or a fine ranging from 6,000 to 12,000 pesos, or both. If the amount of the fraud exceeds 12,000 pesos, the penalty for estafa is reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods, or a fine ranging from 12,000 pesos to the amount of the fraud, or both. This article discusses estafa or criminal fraud and the elements of estafa under Philippine law.

Note that estafa is different from theft. With theft, the offender has taken material possession of a property. With estafa, the offender has taken both material and juridical possession of a property by means of a contract or agreement.

For legal advice on estafa charges and other matters related to criminal law, it is advisable to seek the assistance of experienced litigation lawyers from reputable law firms such as Duran & Duran-Schulze Law located in Metro Manila. Whether it’s an IP law, labor law, or any other legal issue, consulting with knowledgeable and skilled legal professionals is essential in handling estafa cases

How Estafa is Committed

Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code states that estafa may be committed through:

    1. Unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence:
      1. Altering the quality, quantity, and substance of the subject matter in a contract;
      2. Misappropriating or converting someone else’s money, goods, or any other personal property; or denying these from them;
      3. Taking advantage of a signature in blank
    2. Deceit or fraudulent acts:
      1. Using a fictitious identity to deceive another;
      2. Altering quality, fineness or weight of anything pertaining to art or business;
      3. Issuing unfunded or postdated checks;
      4. Availing of services from hotels, restaurants, inns, etc. without paying for them
    3. Fraudulent means:
      1. Inducing another, through deceit, to sign any document;
      2. Resorting to fraudulent practice to ensure success in a gambling game;
      3. Removing, concealing or destroying – in whole or in part – any court record, office files, document, or any other papers.

Filing an Estafa Case

Estafa is considered a criminal case, which means a wrongdoer can be penalized with fines and jail time. You will need a lawyer if you feel that you are the victim of estafa. Prior to filing the case, your lawyer will first determine if filing it is justified. They will also assist you in gathering evidence.

The next step is the actual filing of a complaint with the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) or Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP) where the case was committed. Your lawyer will present the details of the incident, including your evidence, personal information, and information on the offender.

The OCP or OPP will then conduct a thorough investigation of the matter to decide if there is substantial evidence to conclude whether or not a crime has been committed. Note that the offender may choose to file a counter-affidavit to argue against your claim, to which you may respond with a reply affidavit.

If there is sufficient ground for your case, it will then be brought to court. While there are no guarantees as to the length of time that it will take to conclude a case, you can take heart in the fact that criminal cases in general are being resolved significantly faster these days since the Supreme Court’s implementation of its Revised Guidelines of Continuous Trial in Criminal Cases in September of 2017.

The skilled and experienced attorneys at Duran & Duran-Schulze look forward to helping you build and file a proper estafa case. Email or call (+632) 478 5826 today.

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