A guide to criminal law – reckless dishonesty and fraud charges

Fraud is broadly defined as a type of theft or larceny where someone takes money or property for their own gain, through deceptive or dishonest means. According to section 192E of the Crimes Act, a person who ‘by deception, dishonestly a) obtains property belonging to another or b) obtains any financial advantage or causes any financial disadvantage’ is guilty of committing an offence.

Depending on the scale of the fraud, and the particular offence committed, crimes of this type can attract hefty prison sentences, up to a maximum of 10 years. Fraud can range from large-scale corporate fraud, to a single con man or woman operating alone. More recently, cyber-crime and identity fraud have received increasing publicity, and the Crimes Act was amended in 2001 to allow for more in depth definitions of computer crime.

Definitions of fraud

The language around fraud definitions can seem a little bit vague. Here is some clarification of the main terms used to define fraud:

  • Deception means to deceive another person about your intentions, or to use an electronic device such as a computer to do something that you are not authorised to get it to do
  • Property includes anything that might be considered to belong to someone else, or a company, including money, possessions, legacies and debts
  • Dishonesty is measured by the standards of an ‘ordinary’ person
  • Financial advantage refers to anyone who persuades someone else to do something which results in their financial advantage, or does something directly to gain or keep a financial advantage

Types of fraud

There are a number of different offences which fall under the definition of fraud, including:

  • Corporate fraud (sometimes referred to white collar crime)
  • Embezzlement
  • Money laundering
  • Identity theft
  • Bribery
  • Tax evasion
  • Credit card fraud
  • Employee fraud

In addition, general dishonesty is an offence where a person attempts to make a personal gain through dishonesty against a commonwealth entity. This can include Centrelink fraud and obtaining fraudulent Medicare payments, and comes with a maximum prison term of five years.

In criminal law, reckless dishonesty or deliberate deception has to be proven in order for a person to be found guilty of fraud. This means a person needs to be found to have deliberately or recklessly deceived someone else, rather than deceived them by mistake or genuine misunderstanding.

Defences for fraud

If you have been charged with fraud, or you are under investigation for fraud, it is important that you take your situation seriously. It is advisable to seek advice from a criminal lawyer, who is experienced in dealing with fraud cases.

You can only be found guilty of fraud if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly and intentionally acted to deceive someone for your financial gain. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best defence for your situation, but generally there are some things that will work in your favour, including:

  • Proving that you are of good character, by providing character references
  • If you decide to plead guilty, showing remorse and a willingness to make reparations for any loss caused to others can help you obtain a lesser penalty.

Make sure you choose a lawyer with experience in defending fraud charges. Sydney Criminal Lawyers specialises in fraud cases – call us today.

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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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