In the corporate world of Ontario, people may unknowingly become involved in operations or circumstances that turn out to be unlawful. However, if this happened to you, it might be challenging to get out of it without legal implications. This could involve something as simple as shoplifting or complicated involvement in an internet scam or sophisticated financial fraud. These schemes could include operations such as shell corporations and fund transfers to offshore accounts.
Although the law regards theft or fraud that involves less than $5000 as a lesser offence, the impact a conviction can have on your reputation as a professional and all aspects of your life can be as damaging as a conviction for a crime that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars. Along with fines, jail time and probation, you may end up with a criminal record that could potentially ruin your career.
What is the difference between theft and fraud?
Although theft and fraud often go hand in hand, there is a distinct difference between the two crimes:
- Theft -- This offence occurs when you take another person's property without his or her authority. However, to be guilty of theft, you must have known that the property belonged to someone else, and you must have removed the property with the intention to deprive the owner of it permanently.
- Fraud -- If you act dishonestly with the intention to deprive another person, you might face accusations of fraud. This could involve acts from switching the price tags of two pieces of merchandise to authorizing payments to phony companies for non-existing goods or services.
If you face accusations of theft or fraud that involve less than $5000, the Crown will determine whether you will face a charge for a summary or an indictable offence. A conviction on an indictable offence could send you to jail for as long as two years while a less severe summary offence conviction could result in a fine of $2000 or less with the potential of six months of incarceration.
When the fraud or theft allegations exceed $5000, it will automatically be an indictable offence. A finding of guilt for fraud can send you to jail for as long as 14 years while the maximum sentence for theft of something valued at more than $5000 is 10 years.
The Crown regards all fraud and theft cases as serious, and even first-time offenders may land in jail. If you suspect that you could be the subject of a criminal investigation, or if you are facing charges for theft or fraud, there are resources available to you who can help you secure the best possible defence strategy for your specific circumstances.
An experienced lawyer can ensure your rights are protected during this trying time, and he or she can carefully analyze all of the evidence presented by the Crown in order to increase the odds of achieving the best possible outcome for your case.