Fraud is a serious and often complex criminal offence with potentially severe penalties. A fraud lawyer will help you protect your rights and understand the charges made against you. Even if you have already decided not to contact a lawyer before making a statement to the police, there is still hope. We advise you to contact our office immediately and seek legal counsel.
Fraud is intentional defrauding (i.e. the use of deceit or falsehood or other fraudulent means) to obtain or trade in property, money, securities, or services from another person or from the public. The critical element is the intentional deception of another person to their detriment – all fraud like offences share this basic element.
Fraud is a notoriously complicated subcategory of property offences. Fraud cases can engage relatively simple allegations, for example a case of an individual attempting to cash a forged cheque. Or frauds can be extremely complicated, as in the case of allegations of stock exchange manipulations. But even in the simple example, the case is deceptively complicated: the Crown will need to lead, and defence will need to critique, evidence about the checking system, bank video surveillance (if available), photo lineup identification from the bank clerk, and search warrants to obtain account information. This represents a large volume of disclosure for such a simple case, and the disclosure is correspondingly increased with the complexity and sophistication of the alleged fraud.
The Criminal Code contains numerous offences capturing specific types of fraud. Amongst these are false pretences, impersonation, counterfeiting, insider trading, identity fraud, and forgery. All of these offences involve a deceit that is to someone else’s detriment. Consider impersonation: the elements include falsely assuming the identity of another person in order to gain an advantage. And forgery: the elements involve falsely creating a document to induce someone into a detrimental course of action.
Fraud where the alleged amounts are over $5000 carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ incarceration. Fraud where the alleged amounts are under $5000 carries a maximum penalty of 2 years’ incarceration. Other fraud-like offences carry similarly significant maximum penalties: forgery has a maximum of 10 years; identity fraud has a maximum of 10 years; false pretenses has a maximum of 10 years; etc. In reality, accused persons are rarely subjected to the maximum penalties. However, sentences for fraud and fraud-like offences remains high. Fraud is also subject to a mini-sentencing regime under the Criminal Code: in addition to the general principles of sentencing, courts must take into account additional aggravating factors such as the complexity of the fraud, the number of victims, the magnitude of damage to the victims, whether the fraud affected financial markets, etc. Finally, individuals convicted of fraud can be ordered to pay back the amount of loss.
Fraud proceedings are complicated. They can involve voluminous financial, accounting, and banking records and the necessary search warrants to obtain those documents. They can involve numerous specialist witnesses, including banking and accounting experts. They engage unique principles of law about the complex elements of fraud and fraud-like offences. And they present accused persons with significant legal jeopardy, given the hard line that our courts have taken on sentencing fraud and on making those convicted of fraud pay restitution. These complexities are all in addition to the normal complexities of a criminal proceeding. We highly recommend getting the advice of defence counsel if you have been charged with fraud.
If you have any questions, contact our offices now so we can help address you or your loved one’s legal jeopardy. We are available 24/7. We are forceful advocates and we ensure that our clients throughout Alberta are provided with the best defence possible.