Your Guide to Fraud Charges by Fraud Lawyers in Calgary
Fraud is a type of non-violent property offence that covers a broad range of acts, such as using another person’s credit card without their knowledge or consent, falsifying insurance or employment-related records, or engaging in complex schemes that result in substantial financial loss to an individual or a corporation.
Fraud is legally defined as depriving someone of their property, money, or other valuable security or service, through deceit or dishonesty.
Fraud is generally divided into two categories:
- Fraud in an amount over $5,000
- Fraud in an amount less than $5,000
In order to be found guilty of fraud in Canada, the Crown Prosecutor will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:
- That there was a dishonest act, or an act of deceit or falsehood;
- That there was some sort of economic loss or deprivation suffered by the targeted complainant, or that the complainant was put at a risk of pecuniary loss;
- That you were subjectively aware of the fraudulent act; and
- That you knew that the act would cause another economic deprivation, or that you were wilfully blind or reckless as to whether the act would cause another economic deprivation.
Other common variations for this type of offence include Forgery, Identity Fraud, and Obtaining Property by False Pretences.
Table of Contents
- Investigation of Fraud Charges in Calgary
- Bail Process and Conditions for Fraud Charges in Calgary
- Penalties for Fraud Charges in Calgary
- Defending Fraud Charges in Calgary
- What Next?
- Fraud FAQs
Investigation of Fraud Charges in Calgary
An investigation of an allegation of fraud in Calgary is typically started by a complaint from an alleged victim of the fraud, or a witness to the fraud. This may be someone who realizes that money or property has been defrauded, even if they are not the victim (ex: an accountant for a company that has been defrauded). The police will attend the scene and request a written statement from the alleged victim or any other witness, and launch an investigation.
Depending on the complexity of the fraud, the investigation may occur quickly – in a matter of hours or days – or the investigation could take a number of months. If you become a person of interest in the investigation, police may contact you, and ask you to attend the police detachment to discuss the investigation. If this occurs, it is important that you contact a lawyer before speaking to police.
After the police have gathered their evidence and have reasonable grounds to believe that you are the perpetrator of the alleged fraud, they will track you down and arrest you. Police may then decide to charge you immediately, or they may transport you to the Police District Office for further questioning and processing, before deciding whether or not to lay charges. You will likely be given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer before you are questioned, and you should exercise your right to speak to a lawyer to obtain some legal advice before the questioning.
After you have been charged, police will provide a package with all the evidence they collected, known as the “disclosure package”, to the Crown Prosecutor. You will have the right to access this disclosure package to see the evidence against you. Once you retain one of our lawyers, we will assist you obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses in the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Fraud Charges in Calgary
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for fraud charges in Calgary?
If you have been charged with fraud, the police may decide to release you immediately on a Release Order, or hold you for a formal bail hearing.
If you are released on a Release Order, police will provide you with a document outlining your charges, and any required appearances you must make to deal with these charges. This document may also include conditions that you are required to follow while on release.
However, a formal bail hearing may be required to secure your release, particularly if you have a criminal record, or if the fraud allegations are more serious.
In order to conduct a bail hearing, you will be transferred from the district office to the Spyhill Services Centre. The bail hearing must be held within 24 hours, a period that starts from the moment of arrest or detention rather than the time when you are brought to the Centre. Although for many years the Centre was located downtown Calgary, it is now situated in the deep North West of Calgary, which makes getting home after being released far more difficult for many people. The exact address of the Centre is as follows:
Spyhill Services Centre
12500 85th Street, N.W.
Loved ones are not able to contact you while you are detained. The police will not release any information to friends or family due to privacy laws. Your lawyer is the only person allowed to contact you. Once the police have verified your lawyer’s details, they will pass on details about your whereabouts, if requested.
Because of these difficulties while you are held in custody, it is best to appoint a competent defence lawyer as soon as possible to manage the legal processes and communicate with loved ones. After an arrest, the police must provide you with the opportunity to call a lawyer in private and, until that happens, stop questioning you.
Once you retain one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers, we will begin working to secure your release on bail. We will immediately do the following:
- Call into the Court Services Centre in Calgary and speak to you;
- Contact the prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release;
- Order and secure a copy of the police information package that details the allegations against you in advance of the bail hearing. This allows the lawyer to make meaningful representations to the court about why you should be released on bail; and
- Conduct either an in-person or teleconference bail hearing to secure your release.
When you attend your bail hearing, the Judge will consider the following factors:
- Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
- Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
- Is detention necessary in all the circumstances to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?
If you are released, you may face tight restrictions on your release.
Rest assured, we will work not only to secure your release but also ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit) possible.
In order for our lawyers to secure less stringent conditions, the judge will need to be satisfied that you will attend court as required and that you pose no significant risk of harm to the public.
Our lawyers are often successful at persuading the Crown prosecutor in charge of bail to let our clients out. If we can’t convince the prosecutor, we can conduct a formal bail hearing and work to convince the Court. Even if you are ultimately detained, we can appeal that decision on very short notice through a Bail Review.
Where can I pay for bail for fraud charges in Calgary?
If you or a loved one is charged with fraud in Calgary, and granted bail, you may be required to put down a cash deposit to secure release. The cash deposit can be paid at any bail hearing office (courthouse) in Alberta. Even if you live in Edmonton, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Calgary.
Bail hearing offices in Calgary are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The contact details of the bail hearing office at the Calgary Courts Centre are as follows:
Calgary Courts Centre
601 5th Street SW
You can also make a bail payment at the Calgary Remand Centre prior to 8:30 pm.
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after you have your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for fraud charges in Calgary?
Release on bail for fraud charges may include restrictions that impact your day-to-day life. This could include conditions to refrain from:
- Interacting with any alleged victim
- Attending the home or place of employment of any alleged victim
- Attending the location where the fraud took place
- Breaking any laws
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest)
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew)
- Travelling to other provinces or countries
- Possessing weapons or firearms
The judge can also impose some additional conditions, such as:
- Residing where approved
- Reporting to probation
- Attending counselling
- Maintaining or seeking employment
A variety of factors will be considered when determining your precise conditions, including:
- Your criminal history
- Your physical and mental health
- The nature of the alleged fraud
- The likelihood that you will flee
- Your history of drug/alcohol usage
- Whether you have stable employment
- Whether you have stable living arrangements
- Whether you have ties to the community
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is very important that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Failing to follow these conditions can have significant consequences, such as losing your release and being placed back in custody, as well as forfeiting any cash put down to secure your release. You can also be charged criminally for failing to follow these conditions.
Once the matter is in court, we can work with the Crown Prosecutor to alter your conditions. This includes either adding exceptions to some of the conditions or deleting them altogether.
If your court date is still far away and you just can’t wait until then, we can arrange to have the matter dealt with sooner. Our first priority is always to stabilize your release conditions. That way, you will not feel pressured to plead guilty because of the restrictive terms of your release. Once the conditions are manageable and minimally intrusive to your daily routine, we can focus 100% of our attention on defending the case.
Penalties for Fraud Charges in Calgary
Since a wide array of acts fall under the offence of fraud, there is also a wide array of potential penalties if you are found guilty of fraud. The potential penalties can range anywhere from a discharge (i.e. no criminal conviction), to a fine and/or probation, to a period of jail.
While the maximum punishment may vary depending on which provision of the Criminal Code of Canada you are charged under, the maximum allowable punishment for Fraud under Section 380 of the Criminal Code of Canada is as follows:
- For fraud in an amount over $5,000:
- Not more than 14 years’ jail
- For fraud in an amount at or under $5,000:
- Not more than 2 years’ jail if the Crown is proceeding by indictment; or
- Not more than 2 years’ less a day jail if the Crown is proceeding by summary conviction.
The range of potential sentences available to you will depend on a variety of factors, including the amount that was taken, the relationship between you and the victim of the fraud, your criminal history, and other applicable personal factors.
The Criminal Code of Canada also lists of number of factors that could increase your sentence. These are:
- The magnitude, complexity, duration, or degree of planning involved in committing the fraud;
- Whether the fraud had an adverse effect on the stability of the Canadian economy or the financial market;
- The number of victims involved in the fraud;
- Whether the fraud had a significant impact on the victim, taking into account their personal circumstances;
- Whether the offender, in committing the fraud, breached the trust of the community (i.e. took advantage of their good reputation within the community to defraud members of that community);
- Whether the offender, in committing the fraud, failed to comply with licensing or professional standard requirements in the activity that forms the basis of the fraud;
- Whether the offender concealed or destroyed records relating to the fraud.
While a number of factors could increase the likelihood of jail, two of the most significant factors are:
- Whether the fraud was over $5,000; and/or
- Whether the fraud occurred in the course of employment, or another trust-based relationship.
If either factor is present in your case, the Crown will almost always seek a jail sentence, with “large-scale” frauds generally resulting in lengthy terms of imprisonment.
In addition to the above penalties associated with being found guilty, a conviction for fraud, even of a small amount, can have wide-ranging negative consequences in your life. Fraud is considered a “crime of dishonesty” and a conviction will therefore affect your reputation in your community. Potential employers may refuse or terminate your employment if their business involves handling money or the use of valuable property. Your friends, family and peers may view you as unworthy of their trust.
Even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options. The range of sentence for this type of offence is very broad, and a conviction for fraud can have serious consequences for your future and your liberty. In some cases, good representation can lead to no criminal record.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences that stem from a criminal conviction for this offence. In fact, we can canvass a range of sentencing options with the prosecutors that will either leave you with no criminal record or impose minimal restrictions on your liberty after sentencing. To learn more about potential non-criminal resolutions, please visit our Resolutions page, or read our FAQ on Resolutions and other sentencing options.
Defending Fraud Charges in Calgary
What are the best defences to fraud charges in Calgary?
With such serious potential penalties following a conviction for fraud, it is important that you take your defence of these charges seriously. In fraud cases, the defences that may be available to you will depend on the facts of your case.
In general, the best defences for a fraud charge are:
- Factual Innocence: This is usually the strongest defence because the facts and the evidence do not support you being there, causing the fraud, or other basic elements of the offence. This could include:
- Lack of Fraudulent Intent: You were not aware that your actions were dishonest or fraudulent. However, if you were reckless or wilfully blind to the fact that your actions were fraudulent, you may still be found to have committed the offence.
- No risk of loss: The act in question did result in any loss or risk of loss. If there was no loss or risk of loss to the complainant, then the offence of fraud cannot be made out. However, even if the Crown cannot prove that you committed fraud on this basis, it may still be possible for you to be found guilty of conspiring to commit fraud.
- Violation of constitutional rights: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out your rights before and after your arrest. If the police fail to follow these rights, it could aid in your defence. For example, since fraud prosecutions tend to be very document-driven, police may have been required to obtain a number of documents and records in their investigation. If the police either deliberately or inadvertently violated your Charter rights while gathering this evidence, there may be a violation of your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. A successful argument that the police violated your rights while seizing this evidence could result in an exclusion from the evidence at trial, therefore making it difficult or impossible for the Crown to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Crown is required to prove that your actions not only caused a deprivation or risk of deprivation to someone’s property or money, but also that you did so in a deceitful, dishonest, or fraudulent manner. While the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offence, you may bear some responsibility in raising certain defences at trial.
The availability and strength of any defence depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. Our lawyers have significant experience assessing the availability and strengths of various potential defences in fraud cases, and presenting any and all available defences to the Court at trial. Even if you believe you will be found guilty, it is important that you obtain a legal opinion about defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend fraud charges in Calgary?
If you have been charged with fraud in Calgary, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Providing your lawyer with a detailed statement about what happened;
- Collecting and maintaining all documents and records about the event;
- Gathering a list of witnesses that may support your version of events, if applicable; and
- Logging any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photograph evidence.
What information is relevant will depend on the facts of your case. As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather any information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action for gathering information.
If you are truly proactive about the matter, consider doing the following:
- Secure proof of employment;
- Secure reference letters;
- Enroll in counselling (anger management/substance abuse/parenting);
- Secure a record of prescriptions; and
- Secure a record of any mental health conditions you suffer from.
These steps can be very helpful to building an effective defence (or convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges altogether).
What can a lawyer do to help me defend against fraud charges in Calgary?
As we start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you, there are certain defence strategies that can be used to aid your cause. Some of these include:
- Assembling documents, photographs, texts, etc. that contradict the allegation and support your defence.
- Gathering evidence from witnesses that support your version of events.
- Identifying mistakes in the actions of the police, such as Charter breaches.
- Uncovering administrative/systemic errors, such as with “Jordan delay”, non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.
- Finding weaknesses or “holes” in the Crown’s case that may make it difficult or impossible for them to establish the elements of the offence.
As discussed, fraud charges can be very complex and fact-specific.
We have tried our best to provide a general outline of what you can expect if you find yourself in this situation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our team of Fraud Lawyers to conduct a thorough review of your situation so that we can tailor a precise strategy for a successful defence of your case.