Getting Help with White Collar Crime

The term “white-collar crime” – while widely used in our society – does not actually appear in the Canadian Criminal Code. Instead, white-collar crime refers to a variety of crimes that are financially motivated and nonviolent. Fraud, tax evasion, insider trading, embezzlement, cybercrime, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery are examples of white-collar crimes.

What is a white-collar crime?

The term “white-collar crime” – while widely used in our society – does not actually appear in the Canadian Criminal Code. Instead, white-collar crime refers to a variety of crimes that are financially motivated and nonviolent. Fraud, tax evasion, insider trading, embezzlement, cybercrime, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery are examples of white-collar crimes.

Do not delay in getting legal advice

If you suspect you are under investigation for a white-collar crime, have seen signs of trouble, or have been warned that there is a problem (for example, your employer accused you of acting inappropriately), you should talk with an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately. Do not wait for the police to get involved or until you are arrested. Delay can result in loss of leverage in the criminal process. A lawyer who is skilled in handling white-collar crime knows how the police and the Crown work when investigating these types of cases and may be able to prevent charges from being filed in the first place.

White-collar crime is taken very seriously

White-collar crime often goes undetected for a lengthy period and paper trails make it difficult for police to investigate these types of crimes. In many cases (particularly if the dollar amount involved is low or the offence is dealt with internally in a corporation or place of employment), a white-collar crime does not attract the same level of attention as a violent crime or robbery. However, it is a mistake to think that white-collar crime is not taken seriously in Canada. Penalties in the Criminal Code for offences such as fraud have been toughened in recent years in response to several high-profile white-collar crimes, in an attempt to change public perception that white-collar offenders are treated too leniently and to underscore that such crimes are not victimless. In 2019, the Ontario government set up the “Serious Fraud Office” (“SFO”) which is intended to facilitate cooperation in investigating and prosecuting complex white-collar crime and financial crime.

Harsher penalties and sentencing considerations for white-collar crime of fraud

Fraud is amongst the most common of white-collar crimes, as it can come in many forms including bank fraud, mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, securities fraud (insider trading), Ponzi schemes, OHIP fraud, and investment fraud. Here are some of the toughened penalties in the Criminal Code if you are found guilty of fraud:

  • The maximum prison sentence for fraud over $5,000 has been increased from 10 to 14 years.
  • Conditional sentences (i.e. a sentence that allows the offender to serve their sentence in the community instead of going to jail) are no longer available for charges of fraud over $5,000.
  • There is a two-year mandatory minimum prison sentence if the total value of the fraud exceeds $1,000,000.   

 

The Criminal Code also includes aggravating factors that a court can consider on sentencing for fraud. These aggravating circumstances include:

  • Was the magnitude, complexity, duration, or degree of planning of the fraud significant?
  • Did the offence adversely affect, or did it have the potential to adversely affect, the stability of the Canadian economy or financial system or any financial market in Canada or investor confidence in such a financial market?
  • Did the offence involve a large number of victims?
  • Did the offence have a significant impact on the victims given their personal circumstances including their age, health, and financial situation?
  • In committing the offence, did the offender take advantage of the high regard in which the offender was held in the community?
  • Did the offender not comply with a licensing requirement, or professional standard, that is normally applicable to the activity or conduct that forms the subject-matter of the offence?
  • Did the offender conceal or destroy records related to the fraud or to the disbursement of the proceeds of the fraud?

If the value of the fraud exceeds $1,000,000 this is treated by the court as an aggravating circumstance when imposing a sentence for the offence. Restitution to victims in fraud cases is typically part of the sentencing, and it is important to note that the court can prohibit an offender found guilty of fraud from taking employment or doing volunteer work involving authority over other people's money. The devastating potential for negative impact on your life, your work, and your ability to volunteer cannot be understated.

Get strong legal representation for white-collar crimes

The Ottawa criminal defence lawyers at Engel & Associates will ensure that your rights are protected and use all possible strategies to avoid, reduce or dismiss criminal charges for white-collar crime. White-collar crimes and financial crimes are often highly complex and difficult to prosecute, with charges brought about after lengthy police investigation involving a substantial paper trail. Our Ottawa criminal defence lawyers have the experience to aggressively protect your legal rights during investigation and the skill to dismantle the prosecutions case against you if you are charged with a white-collar crime. Contact the Ottawa criminal defence lawyers at Engel & Associates, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (613) 235-6324.

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