Facing criminal fraud charges can be a devastating experience for anyone, especially those employed in commercial or government settings. Whatever the scale of the offence, the social stigma of criminal fraud charges and the disruptive effect of imprisonment can ruin lives and undermine opportunities for further employment and social life.
The Canadian Criminal Code defines separate paths for the prosecution of fraud, depending on the value of the offence. Therefore, it is critical to understand what is fraud under and over $5,000, what are the penalties for each of these offences, and what your options are when facing a fraud case in Toronto.
What Exactly Is Fraud?
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, someone commits fraud if they “…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.”
Thus, the act of fraud includes distinct elements such as:
deceitful act or falsehood or other fraudulent means,
loss of property or placing victim’s financial interests at risk,
criminal intent, recklessness, or willful blindness.
In most fraud cases, proving intent is crucial. The Crown will try to prove intent by looking into any suspicious circumstances, aka “badges of fraud,” such as secrecy, kickback payments, lack of documentation, or close relationship between relevant parties.
What Is Fraud Under $5,000?
Similar to theft, $5,000 is a dividing line in fraud cases, splitting them into two categories. In Canada, fraud under $5,000 is a hybrid criminal offence that can be proceeded summarily or by indictment. If the Crown chooses to proceed summarily, you may not even have to appear in court, and can choose a fraud charge lawyer to represent you.
Many fraud cases under $5,000 in Toronto occur in retail or similar settings known as shoplifting fraud. These include price manipulations, discount manipulations, fraud with credit cards, and etc. Although the value of such offences can be minimal, fraud under $5,000 is a criminal offence in Canada and should always be taken seriously.
What Is the Possible Penalty For Fraud Under $5,000?
The maximum penalty for fraud under $5,000 is two years in prison. Meanwhile, the severity of the punishment will depend on whether the Crown will choose to proceed summarily or by indictment. The court will also account for the presence of aggravating circumstances, such as premeditated planning, deception, or breach of trust.
If the Crown proceeds summarily, the maximum sentence is 6 months and/or a fine of up to $5,000. However, in indictment proceedings, the maximum penalty increases to 2 years. Meanwhile, in both cases, criminal charges for fraud under $5,000 always come with a criminal record, with different waiting periods before becoming eligible for expungement.
The presence of a criminal record for fraud creates a stigma for employment, finding a residence, and developing a social life. In addition, the court can impose an order prohibiting offenders from obtaining or continuing employment, becoming a volunteer, or having authority over real property or financial assets.
What Is Fraud Over $5,000?
Fraud over $5,000 is known as “white-collar” crime, and is common in such sectors as accounting, banking, or finance. Given the severity of damages, this type of fraud is always treated as an indictable offence, presuming the most severe sentences.
Examples of fraud over $5,000 include withholding material information from potential investors, mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, security fraud, and other similar cases. In addition, the Criminal Code separately mentions cases of fraud where the total value exceeds one million dollars, presuming an additional minimum mandatory sentence.
What Is the Possible Penalty For Fraud Over $5,000?
Those charged with fraud over $5,000 face grievous consequences, given its treatment in the Criminal Code. These consequences have become more severe after amendments instituted in November of 2012, which excluded fraud over $5,000 from eligibility for conditional sentences. Unlike sentences for less serious offences, which can be served under house arrest, the penalty for fraud over $5,000 presumes prison time for the total sentence period.
Therefore, anyone charged with fraud exceeding $5,000 faces a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in prison. In addition, fraud cases over one million dollars include a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
What Are Your Options When You Are Charged with Fraud?
If you have been charged with criminal fraud in Canada, it is essential to speak to experienced fraud defence lawyers as soon as possible. Building a strong defence strategy prior to your court date is vital for ensuring the most lenient outcome.
When someone is charged with fraud, offering restitution or paying back the money to a victim is a frequently considered option. While this strategy may certainly reduce the consequences of a criminal case, it will not automatically result in the dropping of charges; in many cases, the Crown will choose to proceed with the criminal case considering that prosecution would be in the public’s interest.
It is recommended to avoid speaking about your fraud charges to other people who may later be required to testify against you in court. Moreover, you should not talk to the police before speaking with a criminal defence lawyer.
Experienced fraud lawyers know how to mitigate fraud charges and use evidence to your benefit. Often, a successful defence strategy includes proving the absence of intent and/or badges of fraud, as well as raising reasonable doubt to support an acquittal.
Both frauds under $5,000 and over $5,000 are criminal offences that are fraught with serious penalties, including prison time, prohibition orders, and the stigma of a criminal record. Meanwhile, fraud over $5,000 comes with a maximum penalty of 14 years without the eligibility for conditional release.
If you find yourself facing fraud charges in Toronto, don’t hesitate to contact Vilkhov Law fraud lawyers as soon as possible. Call us on our toll-free number at 866-707-5845 or email us at email@example.com for a free consultation on how we can help your case.