Bruce Engel of Engel and Associates criminal lawyers in Ottawa explains the challenge of defending a fraud charge and the advantage of a plea bargain.
Unlike an assault charge file or impaired driving charge file that may take me a few hours to review, a fraud file is usually made up of banker’s boxes full of documents that have to be cross-referenced and verified to ensure that the Crown has everything completely correct. This is a very painstaking and costly process, especially if there are many complainants and lots of documentary evidence and bank records. Clients who are facing these types of charges have to be aware that a lawyer, in order to properly review a file, has to take a lot of time because there are so many documents to review. As an example, I had Revenue Canada income tax case that produced 75 boxes of disclosure.
Plea bargains are always an option in this type of case. Unlike other cases where you can wait until later in the process, an early plea of guilty is usually very, very beneficial. If you approach the Crown early and say that you accept responsibility, you can often strike a very good deal. Fraud files are difficult and time-consuming to assemble; we can sometimes make a very good deal with the Crown, because they will be saved the trouble of amassing all of the data.
Usually, many witnesses are involved as well. Five or six witnesses may be called to show the path of one document. This added complexity also makes a plea bargain appealing to the Crown. If you look historically at most big fraud charges, they are resolved by way of a plea bargain. Clearly, this option is also a cost saving to the client, because he or she has avoided the cost of a lengthy trial.
It’s important to realize that the sentence you may face is not just determined by the amount of money that was fraudulently taken, but also the type of faith and trust that people may have placed in you. People in positions of trust have more opportunities to commit these crimes because they have access to accounts, passwords, and large amounts of money. When they take advantage of the vulnerability of their victims, it’s viewed as an aggravating factor. The court is no longer handing out lighter sentences, and the breach of trust component is taken very seriously by the court. Currently perpetrators of white collar crime and deception perceive that their penalties will not be a severe as those for crimes involving violence. The courts are changing their approach to sentencing, and I predict that in the next couple of years, there will be even more significant penalties for non-violent or white-collar crimes.
If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Ottawa, Ontario Region, .