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Financial Fraud in Washington State

We have explained many of the different fraud and identity theft crimes that fall under the broad umbrella of crimes considered “financial fraud.” In addition to those crimes, prosecutors can also charge people engaged in financial fraud with the unlawful possession or production of the instruments that are used to perpetrate the frauds. The unique aspects of these particular laws criminalizing the mere possession or production of instruments used in financial fraud will be further discussed, as well the potential penalties you could face for being convicted of such financial fraud.

Possession or Production of Instruments of Financial Fraud

RCW 9A.56.320 identifies five distinct fraud crimes you could be charged with in Washington State relating to the simple possession or production of particular documents or instruments that are later used in the commission of other financial fraud crimes like theft, forgery, or identity theft.

1. Unlawful Production of Checks

RCW 9A.56.320(1) criminalizes the printing or production of checks in someone else's name, without that person's permission. This applies to personal checks and business checks, as well as to other payment instruments like bank drafts, money orders, or traveler's checks. The prohibition extends not just to producing a check in someone else's name, but also to the printing or production of a check that only has the routing number or account number of another person or business entity, provided that person or entity has not given the person producing the check permission to create such a check. Indicating how serious Washington State considers this crime, an individual can be charged with unlawful production of payment instruments for simply producing one such check or other payment instrument. It is not necessary for prosecutors to show that the individual was part of some large financial fraud scheme or that multiple checks were printed.

2. Unlawful Possession of Payment Instruments

In addition to facing potential liability for producing fake checks or bank drafts, the Washington State Code also criminalizes the unlawful possession of two or more of these fraudulent payment instruments. RCW 9A.56.320(2) makes it a crime for an individual to possess two or more checks in someone else's name, without that person's permission, where the individual either intends to keep the other person from possessing the check, or where the individual intends to use the check to commit theft, forgery, or identity theft. As one would imagine, this prohibition on merely possessing checks made out in someone else's name does not apply to people or banks who legally have possession of someone else's checks for lawful business purposes. However, this section of the financial fraud statute does extend to the use of a fake check or bank draft made in the name of a fictitious person or entity, or with a fake account or routing number, used to commit theft, forgery or identity theft.

3. Unlawful Possession of a Personal Identification Device

Beyond its concern with checks and other payment instruments, RCW 9A.56.320 is also concerned with the fraudulent use of what it calls a “personal identification device.” RCW 9A.56.320(3) defines a “personal identification device” as any machine or instrument that is used to manufacture any of a wide variety of identification cards, including driver's licenses, state-issued identification cards, employee identification badges, even employer-issued credit cards. According to the statute, merely possessing such a machine with the intent to use it to commit theft, forgery, or identity theft, is enough to be charged under this financial fraud crime.

4. Unlawful Possession of Fictitious Identification

RCW 9A.56.320(4) serves as a backup charge for the similar crime of identity theft, and makes it a crime to possess a fake identification card where the person with the card intends to use it to commit theft, forgery, or identity theft that does not rise to the level required to charge under the more serious identity theft statutes.

However, like the rest of RCW 9A.56.320, this section does not apply to people who obtain someone else's personal identification solely for the purpose of lying about their age (that crime is instead covered under RCW 46.20.0921, which makes the unlawful use of a license or ID).

5. Unlawful Possession of Instruments of Financial Fraud

Finally, RCW 9A.56.320(5) addresses the more white-collar elements of financial fraud by making it a crime to possess any check-making machines, equipment, or software, with the intent to use or distribute fraudulent checks.


A violation of any of the five financial fraud subsections of RCW 9A.56.320 is a class C felony. Under RCW 9A.20.021(1)(c), a class C felony is punishable by confinement in a state correctional institution for up to five years. Adults convicted of such financial fraud can also be fined by the court an amount up to $10,000.

“Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You.”

Financial fraud is a serious crime. As discussed above, the Washington State Code provides a number of crimes for prosecutors to charge related to financial fraud. If you have been charged with financial fraud, you need a knowledgeable defense lawyer who will fight for your legal rights and advocate for your best interests. Experienced criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi is a former prosecutor who is committed to using his background and experience to work for you to achieve the best possible resolution to your case. He assists clients charged with financial fraud, as well as many other different criminal felony and misdemeanor charges.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with financial fraud in King County, Snohomish County, Skagit County, Whatcom County, or Kittitas County, contact the Law Office of Steve Karimi today at 206-660-6200 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation.

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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.