A conviction for fraud can have profound consequences on individuals and businesses alike. Similarly, fraud charges are a serious issue involving a legal labyrinth of complexities. As such, it is essential to understand the multifaceted nature of this offence, the legal nuances surrounding it, and the implications it can carry for those facing fraud charges.
This blog explores key aspects of fraud charges in Ontario, including the legal framework of the offence, common types of fraud, potential penalties, and possible avenues available for defence.
What Constitutes Fraud?
Fraud is codified as a criminal offence under section 380(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada (the “Criminal Code”), which indicates that:
Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service,
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years, where the subject-matter of the offence is a testamentary instrument or the value of the subject-matter of the offence exceeds five thousand dollars; or
(b) is guilty
(i) of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or
(ii) of an offence punishable on summary conviction,
where the value of the subject-matter of the offence does not exceed five thousand dollars.
Fraud Convictions in Canada
Under the Criminal Code, fraud is a crime of theft and can be brought for an act of deceit, falsehood, or other fraudulent means. It may occur through acts or omissions. To convince the court that an accused should be convicted of fraud, the Crown must convince the court beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the prosecution must prove that:
- The defendant committed an intentional act to defraud the victim; and
- The defendant’s actions resulted in the victim’s loss.
While fraud charges and their accompanying penalties can have life-altering consequences for your personal and professional life, it is essential to remember that there may be blurred lines between legitimate business practices and criminal acts, as one mistake may result in unwarranted fraud charges.
Common Types of Fraud
In Canada, there are various types of fraud, some of the most common forms being:
- Tax fraud;
- Credit card fraud (stealing someone else’s credit card information to make an unauthorized purchase);
- Identity theft (obtaining another person’s personal identification information with the intention of committing an indictable offence under false pretence);
- Insurance fraud (knowingly lying to, or omitting information when speaking to, an insurance company to obtain financial gain);
- Forgery (creating a false document and causing someone to believe that it is real); and
- Internet fraud (often through buy-and-sell websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist).
Penalties for Fraud Convictions
Although there are pre-determined penalties for fraud depending on the subject-matter involved, a sentencing court may also consider aggravating factors before determining an appropriate sentence for the offender. The penalty for a fraud conviction will be based on various considerations, including:
- The accused’s prior criminal record, or lack thereof;
- The level of planning required to carry out the fraud;
- Evidence to suggest the fraud was not intentional;
- Whether the accused abused a position of power or the fraud was obtained by breach of trust;
- The number of victims and the extent of the impact the fraud had on them; and
- The value of the property involved.
Minimum and Maximum Sentences for Fraud
If you have been charged with fraud, you could face serious consequences upon a conviction. Section 380(1.1) of the Criminal Code provides that a court “shall impose a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of two years” if the fraud involves property or subject-matter exceeding one million dollars.
If the fraud involves property or subject-matter over $5,000 but less than one million dollars, the offence is indictable, and you may face up to 14 years imprisonment.
If the fraud involves property or subject-matter with a value of less than $5,000, the Crown may elect to proceed on indictment or summarily. If the Crown proceeds by indictment, you may face two years in prison. Alternatively, if the Crown proceeds summarily, the maximum penalty is six months in jail. A fraud conviction may also result in fines, probation, or restitution to the victim(s).
What to Do if You Are Facing Criminal Charges for Fraud
If you have been charged with fraud, a conviction can have long-term impacts on your personal life, employment prospects, and ability to travel outside the country. However, by speaking to a trusted criminal defence lawyer as quickly as possible, you can understand your rights and ensure you take the appropriate steps to obtain the best possible outcome at trial.
Contact the Criminal Defence Lawyers at Hicks Adams for Trusted Advice on Defending Against
At Hicks Adams, our knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers will help you understand how the law applies to your circumstances and will help you build an effective defence strategy to best position you to avoid a fraud conviction. We will provide you with practical legal advice and representation in court. To learn how we can help you, contact us at 975-1700 (toll-free at 1-877-975-1700) or reach out to us through our online form.