Fraud is legally defined as depriving someone of their property, money, or other valuable security or service, through deceit or dishonesty.
It is generally divided into two categories:
- Fraud in an amount over $5,000, and
- Fraud in an amount equal to or less than $5,000.
In order to be found guilty of fraud in Canada, the Crown Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:
- There was a dishonest act, or an act of deceit or falsehood;
- There was some sort of economic loss or deprivation suffered by the targeted complainant, or the complainant was put at a risk of pecuniary loss;
- You were subjectively aware of the fraudulent act; and
- You knew that the act would cause economic deprivation, or you were wilfully blind or reckless as to whether the act would cause economic deprivation.
Other common variations for this type of offence include forgery, identity fraud, and obtaining property by false pretences.
Investigation of Fraud Charges in Toronto
An investigation of a fraud allegation in Toronto is typically initiated by a complaint from the alleged victim or witness. A witness may be someone who realizes that money or property has been defrauded, even if they are not the victim (e.g. an accountant for a company that has been defrauded). The police will attend the scene and request a written statement from the alleged victim and any other witnesses, then will launch an investigation.
Depending on the complexity of the fraud, the investigation may occur quickly – in a matter of hours or days – or it could take a number of months. If you become a person of interest in the investigation, police may contact you to ask that you 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, they will arrest you if they believe you are the perpetrator. If you are not present at the scene, police will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest.
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 in obtaining the disclosure package, and we will review it with you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown’s case, as well as any legal defences that may be available to you.
Bail Process and Conditions for Fraud Charges in Toronto
How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for fraud charges in Toronto?
If you have been charged with fraud, the police may decide to release you immediately on a release order. If this is the case, the police will provide you with a document outlining your charges and any appearances you must make. 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 taken to the Toronto Police Service Division that is responsible for the alleged crime. 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 into the Division.
The phone number for each division is 416-808-[Division Number – 00], so for example, the number for 52 Division is 416-808-5200. The addresses for each Division of the Toronto Police Service can be found here.
Alternatively, you may be held at the Toronto South Detention Centre:
160 Horner Ave
Toronto, ON M8Z 0C2
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 information 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, if 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 in to the Division where you are being held in Toronto 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.
At the time of your bail hearing, you will be transported to the courthouse associated with the particular police division, except for on weekends when Old City Hall holds weekend bail court.
Old City Hall is located at:
60 Queen St W
Toronto, ON M5H 2M3
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. Rest assured, we will work to not only secure your release, but also to ensure the least restrictive set of bail conditions (including the minimum cash deposit).
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, which is conducted at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Where can I pay for bail for fraud charges in Toronto?
If you or a loved one are charged with fraud in Toronto and granted bail, you may be required to provide a cash deposit to secure release. You can pay bail at any court registry (courthouse) in Ontario. If you live in Ottawa, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Toronto.
Bail hearing offices in Toronto are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The simplest way to pay bail is usually to pay it at the courthouse where the bail hearing was held. For instance, at Old City Hall, you can pay the cash deposit at Room 7 on the ground floor. If you are held at the Toronto South Detention Centre, bail can also be paid there.
In Ontario, because of the prevalence of Justices of the Peace and Judges requiring a surety, various bail programs provide an alternative to a surety. The contact number for the Toronto Bail Program is 416-314-3765.
To pay your own bail, you can make a payment after your hearing, assuming you have sufficient funds with you to do so.
How do I change my release conditions for fraud charges in Toronto?
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 the alleged victim,
- Attending the alleged victim’s home or place of work,
- Leaving your house (i.e. house arrest),
- Staying out beyond a certain time (i.e. curfew),
- Breaking any laws,
- Using drugs or alcohol,
- Possessing weapons,
- Possessing firearms,
- Visiting certain places, and/or
The Judge may also impose some additional conditions, such as:
- Residing where approved,
- Reporting to probation,
- Attending counselling, and/or
- 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, and
- Whether you have ties to the community.
If you have already been released, at least for the short term, it is critical that you make arrangements to abide by your conditions until they can be changed. Breaching the terms of your release can result in further charges or a revocation of your bail, as well as a forfeiture of any cash paid to secure your release. It is important to take these conditions seriously.
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 eliminating them altogether.
If your court date is far away and you cannot 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 Toronto
Since a wide array of acts fall under the offence of fraud, the penalties you may face if found guilty vary significantly. You can receive a discharge (i.e. no criminal conviction), a fine and/or probation, or a period of jail time.
The maximum punishment for fraud under section 380 of the Criminal Code is as follows:
- Fraud in an amount over $5,000 or of a testamentary instrument (e.g. a will):
- No more than 14 years’ imprisonment;
- Fraud in an amount at or under $5,000:
- No more than 2 years’ imprisonment if the Crown chooses to proceed by indictment, or
- No more than 2 years’ less a day imprisonment if the Crown chooses to proceed 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 Code also lists of number of factors that could increase your sentence:
- 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 you breached the trust of the community (e.g. took advantage of your good reputation within the community to defraud members of that community);
- Whether you failed to comply with licensing or professional standard requirements in the activity that formed the basis of the fraud;
- Whether you concealed or destroyed records relating to the fraud.
While a number of factors could increase the likelihood of jail time, two of the most significant factors are:
- The fraud was over $5,000; and/or
- The fraud occurred in the course of employment, or another trust-based relationship.
If either of these factors are 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 immediate penalties resulting from a conviction for fraud, it can also have negative impacts on your future. Fraud is considered a “crime of dishonesty” and a conviction will likely 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.
Therefore, even if you intend on accepting responsibility for this type of offence, it is worthwhile to explore your options and consider all the possible penalties. Often, good representation can result in no criminal record. Furthermore, a community-based sentence may be obtained even where the Crown is seeking jail time.
Rest assured, our lawyers will work hard to defend you so that you are not saddled with the consequences of a criminal conviction for fraud. 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 Toronto
What are the best defences to fraud charges in Toronto?
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: 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 abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence. For example, the police could have either deliberately or inadvertently violated your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure while gathering their evidence. This would cause the evidence to be excluded at trial, making it difficult 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 potential defences in fraud cases, as well as 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 the defences that may be available to you.
How can I help defend fraud charges in Toronto?
If you have been charged with fraud in Toronto, the following can help your lawyer build a strong defence:
- Provide your lawyer with a statement about what happened;
- Collect and maintain all documents and records about the event;
- Gather a list of witnesses that may support your version of events; and
- Log any relevant texts, emails, phone calls or photographic evidence.
As soon as you are released on bail, you should start to gather information that may be of use to your lawyer. If you are uncertain what information may be relevant, contact one of our lawyers immediately to create a plan of action.
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 for 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 Toronto?
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, including:
- 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 “Jordan delay,” non-disclosure, lost or destroyed evidence, etc.; and
- 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.
Most of the information above relates to simple fraud cases, which can still be complex and fact-specific. The circumstances of your case will likely further complicate the matter.
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. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.
Theft & Fraud FAQs
- What is fraud?
- What are the best defences to fraud?
- How can I get my theft or fraud charges dropped?