FRAUD VS THEFT
WHAT IS FRAUD?
Fraud is a property crime that refers to a situation where one uses deceit or trickery to achieve an unfair advantage. As a result, the offence may be committed with the approval of the individual or organization being deceived. The deceit aspect of fraud may involve verbal, digital or paper misrepresentations causing the deprivation of the property. A person committing fraud will often hide their actions so when the crime is committed it often remains undiscovered for some time. It is possible the fraudster may not have even come into direct contact with the individual.
As with all criminal offences, there are two components that must exist: mens rea or the intent and actus reus or the physical act. For fraud to be established the accused must (1) intend to commit the fraud and (2) successfully deprive the person of their property.
Examples of fraud are wide-ranging and include:
- Bank embezzlement;
- Tax evasion;
- Fraudulent insurance claims;
- Credit card fraud; and
Without the proper checks in place, large-scale misappropriation could result, including cheque fraud, fictitious vendors, and ghost employees for a period of months, if not years. A conviction of fraud involving a breach of trust will result in a much harsher penalty.
If the fraud is committed by unlawfully depriving a person of their property, the accused may also be charged with theft as they have stolen something by way of the fraud. A person may also be charged with an attempted fraud if they ultimately did not deprive the person of the property but intended to do so and took concrete steps to commit the fraud, but ultimately failed to transpire.
What is Theft?
Theft, by contrast, is when a person takes or steals something belonging to another without permission.
Like fraud, for theft to be established the accused must (1) intend to commit the theft and (2) successfully deprive the person of their property. In order to obtain a conviction, the Crown must prove that the accused had a specific intent to deprive the person of their property and also the physical act of moving or taking the item without the knowledge of or permission from the owner and an awareness that the item belongs to someone else.
Some of the most common examples of theft include: shoplifting, stealing merchandise or supplies from an employer, and stealing a motor vehicle. Theft can also occur in the form of robbery, which entails taking something from a person using force or the threat of force to do so.
A frequent defence to theft (shoplifting, in this case) is that the accused simply “forgot” to pay for the item. This argument undermines the intent element of the offence by highlighting the absence of intent.
Another frequent defence for theft is that the accused genuinely believed he or she had the legal right to take the item, such as a friend leaving his lawnmower at your house. This differs from believing you deserved to have the item or thought it was fair that you received it in that the accused was under the impression he or she is legally entitled to the item.
The success of any argument in a theft or fraud case will depend on the strength of the evidence and the circumstances of the case. Evidence in a fraud case usually involves the police gathering more evidence proving planning and deliberation to prove an intent to defraud another party.