Unlike Theft, where property is stolen outright, fraud involves deceiving the public or individuals into willingly transferring property, money, or other value to the perpetrator. The difference between legal and fraudulent transactions is that the victims of fraudulent transactions base their decision to act upon incorrect or withheld information. In many cases, the Crown can and will prosecute an individual for both fraud and the theft of property.
There are many different types of fraud and instances where fraud is charged. Some examples of fraud are promising false results such as in a pyramid or investment scheme, stealing money from an employer by falsifying accounts, lying about income or other personal information in order to qualify for government benefits, or any of countless other instances where deception is used to gain money or other items of value. Some actions fall under either the general fraud law or more specific fraud laws such as fraud that affects a public market. Fraud may be perpetrated on employers, trusted friends, strangers, the government, or even the public as a whole. With the variety of possible scenarios, seeking the advice of a lawyer as soon as you are charged can help you understand and sort through the unique challenges of your situation.
Where the subject matter of the fraud exceeds $5,000 in value, the punishment can be up to fourteen years imprisonment. For fraud that involves less than $5,000, the maximum sentence is two years in prison. While a sentence cannot be longer than the maximum allowed under law, during sentencing for any offence, the judge considers aggravating and mitigating circumstances when deciding on the length and severity of punishment. In addition to general aggravating circumstances taken into account for all offences, there are specific conditions that a judge looks to in cases of fraud. Aggravating factors in fraud cases include charges valued in excess of one million dollars, activities that affect or threaten to affect the Canadian economy or market, offences involving large numbers of victims, and instances where the accused took advantage of his or her standing or reputation in the community to perpetrate the fraud. Additionally, the judge will not consider typical mitigating circumstances such as employment status if these circumstances were used as a means to commit the offence.
If you have been charged with fraud, the Crown prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that fraud occurred. In making their case, the Crown prosecutor often relies on complex paper trails and witness statements. At every turn, there may be opportunities to exclude such evidence. An experienced lawyer will be able to spot these opportunities and take full advantage of any possible weaknesses in the Crown’s case.