Defending Fraud Prosecutions and Search Warrants
Fraud investigations and prosecutions can have serious implications for many parties. The reputational fallout can affect not just you, but your family, your business, and anyone you may be affiliated with.
BSB Solicitors have a team of defence lawyers, experienced and knowledgeable in the field of fraud and financial crimes. We have a track record of dealing with high-profile cases and dealing with the needs of public figures.
Our fraud solicitors can help you manage serious fraud investigations, defend your assets from seizure, restraint and confiscation, mount a defence against prosecution, and advise on how to protect or repair any damage to your reputation that comes out of a prosecution or investigation.
Being Investigated or Charged with Fraud: Why You Need a Solicitor
A prosecution, or even just an investigation for fraud, can have consequences that can prove life-changing for any individual.
Depending on the severity and type of fraud alleged, you may face severe financial penalties and potentially imprisonment. It’s imperative that you retain the services of a solicitor with a background in specific fraud cases such as these.
Fraud solicitors aren’t only essential for defending prosecutions. A solicitor will also assist in dealing with investigators, and the number of government agencies that conduct such investigations.
These agencies include:
- Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
- Financial Services Authority (FSA)
- Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).
- Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO)
- HMRC Special Compliance Office
- The City of London Police
The high level of stress you’re likely to face also hinders your ability to suitably defend yourself during the investigation or prosecution without a lawyer on hand to help you through the process. To avoid or minimise serious financial penalties, reputational harm and/or imprisonment, you need a professional solicitor to defend your rights.
What Constitutes Fraud?
There are many offences that may be considered an offence under The Fraud Act 2006 whereby the intention is “to make a gain for one’s self or another or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.”
The three main sections laid out in the Fraud Act are:
- Fraud by false representation
- Fraud by failing to disclose information
- Fraud by abuse of position
The Fraud Act includes several activities which can result in prosecution:
- Possession etc. of articles for use in frauds
- Making or supplying articles for use in frauds
- Participating in fraudulent business carried on by sole trader etc
- Obtaining services dishonestly
Different Types of Fraud
Here are some of the most common categories that fraudulent offences will fall under.
Banking, insurance or credit fraud
These offences can include cases such as using false details to get a mortgage, fraudulent insurance claims, and payment card fraud.
Sentences for these offences are also assessed primarily based on the value of money fraudulently obtained. Imprisonment can be the result for long-lasting, high-value offences.
This is a crime in which the offender secures the confidence of a victim or victims, and is thus able to fraudulently obtain money or property. Confidence fraud offences are usually carried out on vulnerable victims.
Sentences are generally assessed based on the monetary value of the offence, as well as the vulnerability and number of victims targeted.
Possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud
Creating and/or supplying objects for use in fraudulent activities can be prosecuted under the Fraud Act. This ranges from fake documents, computer software or hardware, bank account or credit card details, or information on potential targets.
Offenders will be assessed based on their culpability, meaning the significance of their role in the crime and production/supply of articles, and the knowledge of their intended use.
Revenue fraud encompasses offences including:
- False accounting
- Evasion of VAT
- False statement for VAT purposes
- Evasion of income tax
- Evasion of excise duty
- Improper importation of goods
Sentences can range from small minor fines and community-based penalties to lengthy imprisonment for serious and well-organized cases.
Benefit fraud entails making false benefit claims, or purposely claiming benefits you’re not entitled to. This may be from offering false information, or failing to report a change in circumstances that affect your benefit entitlements.
In cases of suspected benefit fraud, you will be contacted by a government agency, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency.
For committing or attempting benefit fraud, you may be ordered to pay back any overpaid benefits, have future benefits stopped or reduced, as well as facing financial penalties or imprisonment in serious cases.
Typical Sentences for Fraud
Overall, sentence length and severity vary greatly depending on the offence, the value of money or property fraudulently obtained, and the harm caused by the offence. Sentences can range from modest financial penalties to lengthy imprisonment.
The maximum sentence possible under the Fraud Act is 10 years imprisonment. Maximum sentences are rare, except for the more sophisticated and high value offences (involving over £500,000).
The Sentencing Council provides judges with a list of criteria with which to assess potential sentences.
The first step assesses the offender’s culpability and the harm caused.
Culpability measured by a number of factors, resulting in:
- High culpability
- Medium culpability
- Low culpability
Harm is assessed on two fronts:
- Harm A: Loss caused or intended.
- Harm B: Victim impact.
After taking culpability and harm into account, the judge will look at additional factors, including:
- Aggravating factors (which increase the seriousness of an offence)
- Mitigating factors (decrease seriousness)
- Additional factors which indicate a reduction (e.g. assistance to the prosecution)
- Reduction for guilty pleas
- Totality principle (if more offences are being sentenced)
- Confiscation, compensation and ancillary orders
- Consideration for time spent on bail (tagged curfew)
Whatever the potential sentence and severity of your case, fraud investigations and/or accusations must be taken seriously. Even if the potential sentence is small, the damage to your own or others’ reputation, as well as the mental strain on yourself or other involved parties, can have a significant impact on your life.
If convicted the prosecution can apply for your assets to be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). This is a relatively drawn out process which can take several months to resolve. We try to work with you and the prosecution to limit the sum that they seek to confiscate based on the alleged benefit from the crime and available assets.
How We Can Help
We offer the knowledge and experience needed for you to comply with fraud investigations and contest prosecutions. The help of professional fraud solicitors such as ours also help you to mitigate the potentially overwhelming stress and mental health burden that comes with such cases.
Whatever your situation, it’s important you get the help of a legal professional as soon as possible. You have the potential to be put under significant strain during questioning or investigation, and the services of a fraud solicitor will help you navigate this process.
To discuss any aspect of your case please contact partners Jonathan Black or James Skelsey on 0207 8373456
see also Facilitating Tax Evasion
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