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  • Fraud Offences and Penalties in Victoria (VIC)

    The offences for fraud in Victoria covers all misdemeanours and violations from obtaining or appropriating a property illegally. Such acts include;

    • A person dishonestly taking a property,
    • Swindling another person to make an action,
    • A form of financial advantage over another person through deceptive means and so on.

    There are many violations and offences under the Fraud offence charge following the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC).

    Section 81 of the Crimes Act 1958 provides explanations, defences and punishments for violations of Fraud in Victoria and related offences.

    If there is a conviction in the Victorian court, a fraud offence will show up on an individual's national police history check in Victoria.

    What is a Fraud Offence?

    It may be called different names, but a person is guilty of a fraud offence if there is sufficient evidence that they;

    • Dishonestly obtain a property belonging to another to deprive the other of it permanently.
    • Had the intention, planned or attempted to obtain a property dishonestly,
    • Employing deception induced a person to take some actions that cause the victims financial disadvantage.

    In this case, "obtains" means the person assumed rights over the property characteristic of the owner. It includes;

    • Possessing the property,
    • Claiming ownership of the property through any means,
    • Obtaining the property for another,
    • Enabling another to obtain or acquire the property.

    What is deception?

    For related fraud offences, subsection 4 of s81 of the Crimes Act in Victoria states that:

    A person may be guilty of deception if they make a statement relating to fact or law about anything to deceive or inform a person wrongly. The person can still be guilty of fraud even if such information is not intentional (reckless).

    Deception also includes an act of causing a computer system, program or machine to malfunction or act deceptively. It consists of all devices that offer some form of payments, incentives and identification payout. An example can be using someone else’s bank card/PIN to withdraw their money from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) without the person’s authorisation.

    How does a person illegally appropriate property in Victoria?

    Several court decisions in the past have adjusted and reviewed the activities or tasks that can constitute a person appropriating a property.

    • Where a person assumes the rights of ownership by claiming rights to perform a duty, only the owner should have the right to;
    • The accused attempted to assume some rights of the owner;
    • Taking, using, damaging, extinguishing, lending, retaining, offering to sell another person property without the consent of the owner;
    • Returned a property in less usable condition than when they collected the property;
    • To have "claimed" a property, the prosecutor must prove that the accused person intricately interfered with or infringed the owner's rights in some way,
    • If the accused got the property innocently but later assumed ownership by dealing/disposing of it as an owner, they are guilty of appropriating it.

    Which court handles a fraud Offence in Victoria?

    Less serious fraud offence charges proceed to the Magistrate Court in Victoria as Summary offences. For such violations, the Magistrate will impose a maximum penalty of not more than two years imprisonment. However, both parties must agree before such matters proceed to a Magistrate in Victoria.

    If the matter is heard in a County Court or higher court, it is an indictable offence. Such offences in Victoria carry punishments over two years imprisonment.

    What penalties does the court impose for a Fraud offence?

    Fraud offences are usually handled before a jury or the Judge in a County Court. The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) prescribes punishments of level 5 imprisonment – 10 years maximum prison term for general court offences.

    However, if the matter is heard as a Summary offence, the Magistrate will not give sentencing greater than a 2 year imprisonment term.

    Obtaining financial advantage by deception

    It is a fraud offence to obtain a financial advantage over a person, especially if someone does it dishonestly. It is treated as an indictable offence under Section 82 of the Crimes Act by a Judge.

    If the Judge finds you guilty of this offence, they will impose sentencing of up to 10 years imprisonment.

    Offences with False accounting

    Such offences involve where the accused person manipulated or tampered with certain legal documents to mislead the public. Under section 83, a person is guilty of this offence if they;

    • Destroy, conceal, falsify an account or records valid for an accounting purpose,
    • Use any reports, accounts or records that would be misleading, false or deceptive.

    If the court finds the accused person or group guilty of such charges, it will impose penalties up to 10 years imprisonment. It is the same as a level 5 imprisonment.

    The Judge also considers a person as a similar offender in this case of they;

    • Concur, assist, or fail to report the presence of such actions, or
    • They jointly omit the records that lead to a matter of falsification.

    Falsification of Documents in Victoria

    A person is guilty of this offence if they falsify or alter a document with the intention to;

    • Induce another person (victim) to accept it as genuine or authentic, and
    • Causing that person (victim) to act based on such altered records or prejudice.

    Under section 83A of the Act, convictions of such cases incur a penalty of level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum term)

    Using a False/altered document

    A person will also be guilty of such offence if they use a document they know to be false/misleading. It is even more severe if they used such "documents" with intent to mislead another person to act or accept it as genuine.

    A person must not use any copies of such a document to induce another to act.

    The offence of making a copy of a false document

    It is also an offence to make a copy of such a document they know to be a false document, to induce another person to accept it as genuine.

    The Judge will also find you guilty of an offence if they find any part of such document in your control or possession. It is even more severe if the person holds such copy intending to mislead a person.

    For such offences, the court imposes a maximum ten-year penalty, equal to a Level 5 imprisonment.

    Having a machine adapted to make such a document.

    Under subsection 5A of the same section (s. 83A), it is an offence to own, possess or control a machine that is adapted to make false documents. It includes having any equipment, implement, instrument, machines or programs needed to falsify a document.

    For such offences, the court issues a level 5 imprisonment term (10 years maximum)

    Also, if the person has any of the implements, paper or other materials in their custody, and they know it is specially designed for such purpose, they can be found guilty of fraud offences.

    The penalty for this offence is a level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum term)

    What is a false document?

    Subsection 6 of section 83A of the Act defines what makes a document false in Victoria;

    • If such document is altered in a form that it is not originally designed,
    • If such record is made in the authority of a person who did not authorise it so,
    • If they include specific terms by a person who did not create the original document,
    • If it is made in the authority of a person who did not authorise making such terms,
    • Such record is altered in any respect on the control of a person who cannot "authorise" its alteration,
    • Such a document is changed by a person impersonated or assumed to be existing.

    What is an act of prejudice or bias?

    The court only accepts that the offender commits the act out of prejudice if any of these is proven;

    The action led to;

    • Loss of a temporal or permanent loss of property,
    • Deprives a person the opportunity to earn payment or greater pay,
    • A person is deprived of a chance to get a financial disadvantage

    Or,

    • Results to another person getting a financial gain from the victim,
    • Results in a person believing a false document as genuine or a copy of it.

    To prove a fraud offence of this kind, the prosecutor must prove that the person alleged an intent to induce the victim to accept a false document concerning them.

    Liability of company officers for certain Fraud offences

    A director, secretary, manager, or can be found guilty of any of the fraud offences (ss. 81, 82, 83) mentioned above if there is proof that;

    • The crime occurred under their consent or guidance,
    • They contrived to commit the offence,
    • They were reckless while such violations occurred.

    If such boards/positions are managed by members other than the directors, the members or other people who handle such affairs will incur the same penalty.

    False statements by company directors

    Suppose a Company director any of the top administrators of a company or other corporate bodies releases, publishes or concurs to a statement intended to deceive members or creditors. In that case, they are guilty of fraud offences.

    It includes all written statements, accounts, or press releases that the administrator knows to be deceptive.

    Under section 85(1), they are guilty of fraud offences and are liable to a ten-year imprisonment term.

    However, if its members manage the corporation's affairs, all guilt or punishments will apply with the members.

    Suppression of documents

    The court will find an accused person guilty of this offence if they endorse, alter, cancel, destroy, or manipulate a valuable document. It is more severe if such actions were intended to get a financial advantage or gain.

    These offences extend to all illegal and dishonest actions against;

    • Testaments,
    • Original documents,
    • Wills,
    • Valuable security,
    • Deeds,
    • And other original documents filed or deposited before any government department or court of justice.

    The maximum penalty for this offence under the Act (s. 86) is 10 years imprisonment.

    Blackmail

    Blackmail is a serious offence and is related to or can form part of a Fraud offence. Section 87 of the Crimes Act defines and lists all actions concerning the violation. The court concludes that a person commits or attempts blackmail if;

    • Intending to get a gain for themselves or a loss to another.
    • Make an unwarranted demand with menaces.

    For such purposes;

    The nature of the act or the act demanded is immaterial when considering the offence of the blackmail.

    Any person found guilty of blackmail is guilty of the indictable offence and is liable to a level 4 imprisonment. (15 years maximum)

    Handling and receiving stolen goods

    A person who handles a stolen good and knows that such property is obtained dishonestly is guilty of such offence. It also includes all those who;

    • Possessor keep such items,
    • Receive such item (where you know it is stolen),
    • Receives proceeds from or helps to dispose of the items.

    Under the law, such offenders are convicted the same as those who committed the original stealing offence in Victoria. Usually, the crime is handled as an indictable offence and incurs penalties up to level 4 imprisonment (15 years imprisonment)

    If a married woman handles the item from such fraudulent acts, she is still guilty of the action; It does not count as a defence that she received the goods from her husband.

    Willingness to pay for the stolen property

    A person is still guilty of using dishonest means to obtain a property (stealing offence), even if they intended to pay for the property. The court does not consider the accused person willing to pay as an excuse for using dishonest means.

    Possible defences to a fraud offence in Victoria

    If you get a charge for a fraud offence or any other stealing offence, it is best to contact the services of an experienced lawyer. They will provide you with;

    • Arguing various forms of defences (if you are guilty).
    • Sound legal advice, and
    • Court representation.

    Depending on how convincing or compelling your argument is, the Judge may grant you lesser sentencing or even acquit you of the charge.

    The possible defences for a Fraud offence include;

    • The item taken is not considered a "property."
    • The argument that you had the honest claim of rights,
    • The actions resulted from a civil dispute,
    • You had consent to use or claim the property,
    • Insanity or mental instability,
    • Committed the offence under duress.

    Do Fraud offences committed in Victoria show up on a national police history check?

    Where an individual is convicted in a Victorian court for the offence of fraud, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on their police check certificate.

    Individuals can obtain a nationally coordinated criminal history check (NCCHC) online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC®) website.

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