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Fraud 2020-07-24T17:22:10+00:00

Your Guide to Fraud Charges by Fraud Lawyers in Victoria

What is Fraud?

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.

The provision for fraud in the Criminal Code of Canada is:

Fraud Lawyers Victoria

Fraud is generally divided into two categories:

  1. Fraud in an amount exceeding $5,000,
  2. 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:

  • 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 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 to the act causing economic deprivation.

Other common variations for this type of offence in the Criminal Code include Forgery (s. 368), Identity Fraud (s. 403), and Obtaining Property by False Pretences (s. 362).

Investigation of Fraud Charges in Victoria

An investigation of a fraud allegation in Victoria is typically initiated by a complaint from an 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 local Victoria, Saanich, or Oak Bay police will attend the scene and request a written statement from the alleged victim and any witnesses, and will then launch an investigation.

Depending on the complexity of the fraud allegation, 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, the police may contact you to ask that you attend the police district office 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, they will track you down or issue a warrant for your arrest. Police may then decide to charge you immediately, or they may transport you to the 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 being questioned. You should exercise your right to obtain legal advice before the questioning.

After you have been charged with fraud, police will provide a package with all the evidence they collected, known as the “disclosure package” or “particulars,” 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 Victoria

How do I get myself or a loved one out on bail for fraud charges in Victoria?

If you have been charged with fraud, the police may decide to release you immediately on a release order, or they will 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, as well as any required appearances you must make. This document may also include conditions that you are required to follow while on release.

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. 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 district office or Courthouse.

On a weekday, you will be transferred from the district office to the Victoria Courthouse to conduct a bail hearing. The address of the courthouse is as follows:

Victoria Courthouse
850 Burdett Ave
Victoria, BC V8W 1B4
(250) 356-1478

If you are arrested after approximately 3 p.m., you will be held at the detachment until the following morning, at which time you will be transported to the Courthouse for your bail hearing, which will be conducted in front of a Provincial Court Judge.

If you are arrested on Friday after approximately 3 p.m., or if you are arrested on a weekend, your bail hearing will be conducted at the detachment via telephone with a Justice of the Peace from the Justice Centre.

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:

  1. Call in to the district office where you are being held, or the Victoria Courthouse if you have been transported, and speak to you.
  2. Contact the Prosecutor assigned to the bail hearing to start negotiating your release.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Is detention necessary to secure your attendance in court?
  2. Is detention necessary to protect the public from a substantial risk of re-offence?
  3. 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 cannot 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 Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Where can I pay for bail for fraud charges in Victoria?

If you or a loved one is charged with fraud in Victoria 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 British Columbia. If you live in Vancouver, you can pay bail there for someone detained in Victoria.

The Victoria court registry is open from 8:30 – 4:30, Monday to Friday. The contact details of the registry office at the Victoria Courthouse are as follows:

Victoria Courthouse
850 Burdett Ave
Victoria, BC V8W 1B4
(250) 356-1478

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 Victoria?

Release on bail with 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,
  • Handling currency in the course of your employment,
  • Possessing banking records or identity documents in the name of another,
  • 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, and/or
  • Possessing weapons or firearms.

The Judge can 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 restrictions, including:

  • Your criminal history,
  • Your physical and mental condition,
  • 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 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 Victoria

Because a multitude of acts fall under the offence of fraud, there is a wide range of potential penalties if you are found guilty. 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 time.

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 Code is as follows:

  • For fraud in an amount over $5,000: not more than 14 years’ jail time;
  • For fraud in an amount at or under $5,000: not more than 2 years’ jail time.

The range of potential sentences available to you will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The context of the offending conduct,
  • The amount that was taken,
  • The relationship between you and the victim of the fraud,
  • Your criminal history, and
  • Other applicable personal factors.

Aspects of your life such as depression, gambling addiction, substance abuse and acute financial distress can influence your sentence.

The Criminal Code of Canada also lists of number of factors that could increase your sentence, including:

  • 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; and
  • Whether the offender concealed or destroyed records relating to the fraud.

Two of the most significant factors that could increase the likelihood and length of jail time are:

  1. If the fraud was over $5,000; and
  2. If the fraud occurred in the course of employment, or another trust-based relationship.

In addition to the penalties above, a conviction for fraud, even of a small amount, can have wide-ranging negative consequences on your future. Fraud is considered a “crime of dishonesty.” A conviction, therefore, will 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 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 that stem from 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.

Fraud Lawyers Victoria

Defending Fraud Charges in Victoria

What are the best defences to fraud charges in Victoria?

Because of the severity of potential penalties for a conviction for fraud, it is important to take your defence 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 fraud 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 not 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 abide by these rights, it could aid in your defence. For example, the police either deliberately or inadvertently violating your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure while gathering evidence. A successful argument could result in an exclusion of the evidence at trial, 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 potential defences in fraud cases, as well as presenting any and all available defences to the Court at trial. Even if you believe that 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 Victoria?

If you have been charged with fraud in Victoria, 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.

What information is relevant will depend on the facts in 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 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 Victoria?

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.

What Next?

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. We will conduct a thorough review of your situation and tailor a precise strategy that targets your successful defence.

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