Embezzlement and fraud are serious crimes that fall under the broad categorization of theft in Ontario.
An embezzlement is a form of financial theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer.
It usually occurs in businesses where select employees have access to the financial resources or property of the company.
If you have been accused of embezzlement or fraud, the potential consequences of a criminal record and jail time mean that you need to seek experienced legal counsel.
At Friedman Mansour LLP in Ottawa, we have successfully defended many people accused of these crimes, either helping them avoid a criminal record entirely or saving them from the worst-case outcomes.
Proving embezzlement in Ontario
In order to prove embezzlement, the prosecution must show that you intentionally and without permission or consent spent, used or took property that an employer or superior entrusted to you.
If they cannot prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, you have an excellent chance of acquittal.
The high burden of proof presents several possible defences for a lawyer experienced in such cases.
Defending against embezzlement in Ontario
After reviewing your case and the evidence against you, your criminal defence lawyer may decide either to defend the charges at trial or work on a plea bargain with the prosecution.
Either way, the aim will be to mitigate the consequences for you. If neither case dismissal nor acquittal can be secured, we will seek probation instead of a custodial sentence.
In general, the best defences against a charge of embezzlement or financial fraud are the following:
- Consent for the use or possession of the money or property in question was provided by your employer or supervisor
- You believed in good faith that you were entitled to possess the money or property
- You were owed the money or property in question
- The money or property was entrusted to you by the employer or supervisor
Penalties for criminal embezzlement in Canada
The possible penalties for embezzlement depend on the value and amount of the property that was stolen or misappropriated.
These penalties are laid out in the section of the Canadian Criminal Code that addresses the crime of theft.
Where the value of the property stolen exceeds five thousand dollars:
- It is an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years
Where the value of the property stolen does not exceed five thousand dollars:
- It is an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or
- It is an offence punishable on summary conviction
If you are accused of embezzlement but do not believe that you committed any wrongdoing, it is important to consult a lawyer given these harsh potential penalties.
If you feel that there may be a misunderstanding, it may be tempting to keep the accusation “quiet” and to try to brush the matter aside.
You may convince yourself that you can handle the matter with your employer. However, it is generally advisable to seek legal advice in case charges are pressed because your job – and more – may be at stake.
Employee embezzlement, theft & misappropriation fraud
Some employees are in positions where the potential for committing embezzlement, fraud, or misappropriation of funds or property is great.
This includes employees such as accountants, bookkeepers, and payroll staff. These individuals usually have access to critical financial systems with a high duty of trust placed on their shoulders to protect this information.
In some cases, this trust may be abused for personal gain over an extensive period of many years. In other cases, where a company is more adept with having checks and balances in place, the embezzlement is identified quickly and dealt with.
If you have been accused of such a crime and your employer is looking not only to terminate your contract but to litigate against you for their losses, speak to one of our embezzlement and fraud lawyers as soon as possible for advice on where you stand legally.
Your employer may take out injunctions against you as you are investigated and funds may be traced or frozen in an attempt to recover losses.
Our embezzlement lawyers have experience in forensically examining the evidence against you and advising you accordingly.
A quick and proactive intervention from a skilled defence lawyer can make the difference between a criminal record with prison time and your case being dismissed.
Your defence begins today. Arrange a free consultation with Friedman Mansour LLP.