Fraud is a serious criminal offence in Canada that can have severe consequences for your reputation, freedom, and future. If you are accused of fraud, you need to know what you are facing and how to defend yourself.
In this blog post, we will explain what fraud charges in Canada are, what the penalties are, what the Crown has to prove, and what possible defences you can use with the help of a criminal defence law firm.
What Is Fraud?
Fraud is defined in section 380 of the Criminal Code of Canada as any act of deceit, falsehood, or other fraudulent means intended to deprive the public or a specific person of money, property, services, or valuable security. Fraud is essentially a crime of dishonesty and theft, and it can take many forms, such as:
- Tax Fraud: Failing to report income, claiming false deductions, or evading taxes in any way.
- Credit and Debit Card Fraud: Using someone else’s card or card information without authorization or making false or unauthorized transactions.
- Bank Fraud: Forging cheques, opening accounts with false identities, or obtaining loans or mortgages under false pretences.
- Identity Theft: Stealing someone else’s personal information, such as name, date of birth, social insurance number, or passport, and using it for fraudulent purposes.
- Medical Fraud: Billing for services or products that were not provided or providing unnecessary or substandard services or products.
- Insurance Fraud: Making false or exaggerated claims for damages or injuries or staging accidents or injuries to collect insurance benefits.
- Breach of Trust: Abusing a position of trust or authority to misappropriate funds or assets from an employer or a client.
- Fraudulent Mails: Sending or receiving letters or packages that contain false or misleading information or that are intended to defraud the recipient or the sender.
- Stock Market Fraud: Manipulating the price or volume of stocks, bonds, or other securities or engaging in insider trading or other illegal activities.
- Embezzlement: Taking money or property that belongs to someone else and that you have access to or control over, such as an employee, a trustee, or a fiduciary.
- Contract Fraud: Entering into a contract with false or misleading information or breaching a contract by failing to perform or deliver as agreed.
- Internet Fraud: Using the internet to commit any of the above types of fraud or to scam people by phishing, spoofing, hacking, or selling counterfeit or defective goods or services.
What Are The Penalties For Fraud?
The penalties for fraud depend on the value of the property or money obtained by fraud and on the circumstances of the case.
The Criminal Code of Canada sets out three possible sentences for fraud:
- Property Values of Less Than $5,000: This is a hybrid offence, which means that the Crown can choose to proceed by indictment or summarily. If the Crown proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty is two years in prison.
- If the Crown proceeds summarily, the maximum penalty is six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. However, the Crown will often elect to proceed summarily for less serious fraud charges involving defendants with no prior criminal record.
- Property Values of More Than $5,000: This is an indictable offence, which means that the Crown must proceed by indictment. The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison. This is a very serious charge that can result in lengthy incarceration and a permanent criminal record.
- Property Values of More Than $1 million: This is an indictable offence with a minimum penalty of two years in prison. This is an aggravating circumstance that the judge must consider when sentencing, and it reflects the gravity and impact of the fraud on the victim(s) and the economy.
- In addition to these penalties, the court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim(s) to compensate them for their losses. The court may also impose a probation order, a fine, a forfeiture order, or a prohibition order, depending on the case.
What Does The Crown Have To Prove To Get A Fraud Conviction?
To get a fraud conviction, the Crown must prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The actus reus, or the prohibited act: This means that the defendant committed an act of deceit, falsehood, or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of the Criminal Code. A false pretence is a representation of a matter of fact, either by words or conduct, that is made with the intention of deceiving and that is known to be false by the person who makes it. However, fraud can also be committed by omission or by failing to disclose a material fact that one has a duty to disclose.
- The mens rea, or the guilty mind: This means that the defendant intended to defraud the public or a specific person and that the defendant’s act or omission caused or risked the deprivation of money, property, services, or valuable security. Deprivation means more than just losing something; it also means being put in a worse position than before or being deprived of a potential benefit.
- Both elements must be present for a fraud conviction. For example, if the defendant made a false statement but did not intend to defraud anyone, or if the defendant intended to defraud someone but did not cause or risk causing any loss, then there is no fraud.
What Are The Possible Defences For Fraud Charges?
There are several possible defences for fraud charges, depending on the facts and evidence of the case.
Some of the common defences against fraud charges in Canada are:
Lack of Fraudulent Intent
A criminal defence lawyer typically challenges the mens rea element of fraud. The defence strategy involves arguing that the defendant did not intend to deceive anyone, that the defendant acted in good faith, or that the defendant was mistaken or misled in their claims or actions.
For example, if the defendant honestly believed that they had the right to use someone else’s credit card or that they had performed the services or delivered the goods that they billed for, then they did not have fraudulent intent.
Lack of Deprivation
This defence challenges the actus reus element of fraud. It argues that the defendant’s act or omission did not cause or risk causing any loss to the victim(s). For example, if the defendant paid back the money or returned the property that they obtained by fraud, or if the victim(s) did not suffer any harm or disadvantage as a result of the fraud, then there was no deprivation.
This defence argues that the victim(s) consented to the defendant’s act or omission or that they authorized or ratified it. For example, if the victim(s) agreed to lend the defendant money or property or to enter into a contract with the defendant, knowing that the defendant was not truthful or reliable, then they consented to the fraud.
This defence argues that the defendant was induced or pressured by the police or another agent of the state to commit the fraud and that they would not have committed it otherwise. For example, if the police posed as a potential buyer or seller and offered the defendant an opportunity or incentive to commit the fraud, then they entrapped the defendant.
This defence argues that the defendant’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated during the investigation or prosecution of the fraud and that the evidence obtained as a result of the violation should be excluded.
For example, if the police searched the defendant’s home or computer without a warrant or reasonable grounds, or if the police interrogated the defendant without informing them of their right to counsel, then they violated the defendant’s Charter rights.
These are not the only defences for fraud charges, and they may not apply to every case. The best defence strategy will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the strength and credibility of the evidence.
That is why it is crucial to consult with an experienced fraud defence lawyer as soon as possible if you are facing fraud charges. A fraud defence lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, review the evidence against you, challenge the Crown’s case, and negotiate the best possible outcome for you.
How Slaferek Law Can Help You?
Fraud is a serious criminal offence in Canada that can have severe consequences for your reputation, freedom, and future. If you are accused of fraud, you need to know what you are facing and immediately get in touch with Slaferek Law.
As a reputed criminal defence law firm, Slaferek Law has helped many people successfully defend themselves against various charges, including fraud. With our legal expertise and vast experience, you can make sure that you have the most effective and robust legal defence strategy.
Contact us for a free consultation!