Is Fraud a Criminal Offence in Victoria, Australia?

fraud charges


What is fraud?

‘Fraud’ is a term frequently encountered, indicating a form of dishonest behaviour for personal gain. However, its legal meaning, especially in Victoria, Australia, is far more significant and distinct. It is crucial for both legal practitioners and the public to understand that fraud, in its various forms, is legally recognised and carries severe consequences.


Is Fraud a Criminal Offence?

Yes, fraud is classified as a criminal offence in Victoria, Australia. Charges and offences related to fraud are legislated under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic). For specific types of fraud such as Centrelink fraud, the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) provides additional federal regulations.


Categories of fraud in Victoria​

Two categories of fraud offences exist: summary offences, which are less severe and adjudicated in the Magistrates Court, and more serious indictable offences, dealt with in the County Court. Summary offences can result in a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment.


Types of fraud that are criminal offences


Obtaining Property or Financial Advantage by Deception

One significant category of fraud offences in Victoria is the act of obtaining property or financial advantage by deception. The concept of ‘deception’ is defined under s81(4) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), where it entails deliberate or reckless words or conduct pertaining to matters of fact or law that are false or deceitful.

If a person in Victoria is found to obtain property by deception, as legislated by s81 of the Crimes Act 1958, it is classified as an indictable offence. This offence can result in a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. To establish that property was indeed procured by deception, the prosecution must prove that the accused took control of someone else’s property intending to permanently deprive the owner, engaged in deception, and was aware of their dishonest actions.

Moreover, obtaining financial advantage by deception is another indictable offence under s82 of the Crimes Act 1958, carrying a similar maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. ‘Financial advantage’ in Victorian law encompasses both monetary advantages and any actions that better the financial situation of the accused or an associated party. For the prosecution to prove this offence, they must demonstrate that the accused gained a financial advantage for themselves or another person, engaged in deception, and were knowingly dishonest.

These offences can take various forms, including:

     making false insurance claims

     issuing illegitimate refunds to embezzle funds from an employer

     utilising a stolen credit card for purchases

     managing a pyramid scheme

 

Those charged with obtaining property or financial advantage by deception should seek the guidance of an experienced criminal lawyer to evaluate their legal options. The accused cannot be held criminally liable for the charge if the prosecution cannot convincingly prove all elements of the offence.

Fraud Charges Australia


False Accounting and Falsification of Documents

False accounting and falsification of documents are serious criminal offences in Victoria, each carrying severe legal consequences under the Crimes Act 1958.

False accounting, under s83 of the Crimes Act 1958, is an indictable offence. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. To prove this charge, the prosecution must demonstrate that the accused dishonestly destroyed, defaced, concealed, or falsified any record or document made or required for an accounting purpose. Additionally, it must be shown that the accused intended to make a gain for themselves or cause loss to another.

Falsification of documents, legislated under s83A of the Crimes Act 1958, is another indictable offence. This charge carries a similar maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. This offence involves intentionally using, possessing, or forging documents that the accused knows to be false. Furthermore, the prosecution must prove that the false documents were used to disadvantage another person or to induce another person to act or refrain from acting, thereby disadvantaging them. Possessing a machine designed or adapted to create false documents is also an offence under this legislation.

These offences may encompass a variety of actions, such as producing a fake ID to enter an 18+ venue, forging a bank statement to obtain a loan, or hiding accounting information to secure a business contract.

If any element of these crimes cannot be proven by the prosecution, the defendant cannot be found guilty of false accounting or falsification of documents. Therefore, it is crucial for those facing these charges to engage the services of an experienced criminal lawyer to evaluate their legal options. The actions of the accused may not necessarily constitute an offence depending on the available evidence and the specific circumstances of the case.


Identity Crime

In Victoria, identity crimes are legislated under Part 1, Division 2AA of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). One such offence is the making, use, or supply of identification information, as defined by s192B of the Crimes Act 1958, which is an indictable offence carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

To prove this offence, the prosecution must demonstrate that the accused made, used, or supplied identification information that did not relate to them, were aware that the information was identification-related, and intended to use or supply the information to commit or facilitate the commission of an indictable offence.

Also, the possession of identification information is an offence under s192C of the Crimes Act 1958, given the same conditions mentioned in s192B. This offence can result in a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment. It essentially means that possessing identification information that enables the accused to impersonate another individual, either real or fictitious, is illegal.

Moreover, possessing equipment used to manufacture identification documentation, as stipulated under s192D of the Crimes Act 1958, is an offence under the same conditions mentioned in s192B. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment. For instance, the falsification of documents such as passports, birth certificates, licenses, or ABN certificates would constitute an offence.

 

If the prosecution fails to prove any element of these identity crimes, the defendant cannot be found guilty. Consequently, the services of an experienced criminal lawyer are vital in assessing legal options and evaluating whether the accused’s actions indeed constitute an offence.

centrelink fraudsters


Blackmail

Blackmail is a serious indictable offence in Victoria, as per s87 of the Crimes Act 1958. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. To establish a charge of blackmail, the prosecution must prove that the accused made an unwarranted demand with menaces, intending to either make a gain for themselves or cause loss to another.

However, the accused cannot be found guilty of blackmail if the demand, while unwarranted and made with menaces, was made with the belief that there were reasonable grounds for the demand, and the use of menaces is a proper means for reinforcing the demand. Importantly, the court does not consider the nature of the act demanded.

Similar to other offences, if the prosecution fails to prove any element of the crime, the defendant cannot be found guilty of blackmail. This highlights the necessity of an experienced criminal lawyer to assess legal options and analyse the circumstances and evidence, as there may be reasonable doubt regarding whether the accused’s actions constitute an offence.


Money Laundering

Part 1, Division 2A of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) covers money laundering offences in Victoria. According to Section 194 of the Act, it is an indictable offence to deal with proceeds of crime. The penalties vary depending on the level of knowledge and intent to conceal:

     Knowing the proceeds are from crime and intending to hide this fact carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

     Merely knowing the funds are crime proceeds attracts a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment.

     Being reckless as to whether the funds are proceeds of crime can lead to a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

     Negligence as to whether the funds are proceeds of crime carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Furthermore, Section 195 of the Act criminalises dealing with property suspected to be proceeds of crime. This summary offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment. To prove this offence, the prosecution must demonstrate that the accused dealt with the property and that there are reasonable grounds to suspect the property was proceeds of crime.

As with other crimes, a defendant cannot be found guilty of dealing with the proceeds of crime if the prosecution fails to prove any element of the offence. Hence, the assistance of an experienced criminal lawyer is essential to assess the available legal options and evaluate the circumstances and evidence.

centrelink frauds


Centrelink Fraud

Centrelink fraud is governed under different sections of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). Under section 134.2 of the Act, it is an offence to obtain a financial advantage by deceiving a Commonwealth entity such as Centrelink. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused obtained financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity, engaged in deception, and knew they were acting dishonestly.

A similar but lesser charge is legislated under s135.2 of the Act. This offence, related to obtaining a financial advantage, carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment. To prove this lesser offence, the prosecution must demonstrate that the accused engaged in conduct that resulted in obtaining financial advantage for themselves from a Commonwealth entity and knew or believed they were not eligible to receive the financial advantage.

However, being overpaid by Centrelink does not necessarily result in criminal prosecution. Centrelink fraud is a complex area of criminal law, with various factors such as the overpaid amount and circumstances surrounding the overpayment considered before deciding to prosecute. The accused will also have an opportunity to participate in a taped interview with Centrelink before a matter is referred to the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions.


Other Offences Related to Fraud

The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) legislates numerous other indictable offences associated with fraud. These include, but are not limited to:

     False statements by company directors, etc. (s85): This indictable offence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

     Suppression, etc. of document (s86): This indictable offence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

     Threats to destroy or damage property (s198): This indictable offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

     Destruction of evidence (s254): This indictable offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

Additionally, some summary offences related to fraud in Victoria are legislated under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic). These include, but are not limited to:

     Unexplained possession of personal property reasonably suspected to be stolen (s26): This carries a maximum sentence of 1-year imprisonment.

     Obtaining goods, etc. by valueless cheque (s37): This carries a maximum sentence of 1-year imprisonment or 25 penalty units.

     Taking or using vehicle without consent of owner, etc. (s38): This carries a maximum sentence of 3 months imprisonment or 15 penalty units.

In Victoria, the value of one penalty unit is approximately $165.


If you are charged with fraud

Facing charges related to fraud can be a daunting experience. Sher Criminal Lawyers are experienced in dealing with these complex laws and can provide invaluable assistance to those facing criminal charges like fraud.

Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to offering expert advice and robust representation, ensuring the best possible outcome for clients.

For anyone in need of legal advice or representation, Sher Criminal Lawyers are readily accessible and responsive. We encourage anyone facing fraud-related charges or requiring legal counsel on these matters to reach out and discuss their circumstances.

Share This

Select your desired option below to share a direct link to this page

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Book Now

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.