We have in-house staff with accounts expertise and have special working relationships with forensic accountants who have given evidence on our clients' behalf. These experts can provide reports which show an individual's or business's financial activity and liability.
We know that for businesses, the investigation of an offence can be more damaging than any sentence imposed. The authorities impose freezing injunctions on accounts and stop a legitimate business from trading. There has been no trial at this point and a business is effectively shut down. In certain circumstances, freezing orders can be unfrozen and we can help get businesses back to work.
Please see below for examples of some cases we have recently acted in. For information on these and more complex frauds please see below the case studies.
Our client was accused of a social security fraud amounting to over £200,000 in government funds over a two year period. He was accused of being a major figure in a sophisticated large scale operation.
After we conducted a six month investigation into the case, including our own analysis of fingerprint and handwriting evidence, the client was acquitted after trial.
Verdict | Not Guilty
Different types of Fraud
The law on fraud has recently changed. The old law on 'obtaining things by deception' has been abolished. It used to criminalise only the successfully carried out frauds, but it is now much broader. A fraud now occurs whenever someone says or does something false to try and make himself a gain, or to cause another a loss. It must be done dishonestly.
A fraud can also be committed if someone fails to disclose information which they must in order to cause himself a gain or a loss to another. A separate offence exists when someone in a position of trust does this.
Possessing any article for use in a fraud is now an offence, whereas it didn't used to be. An 'article' is anything real or electronic. This means that having credit cards in someone else's name to try and buy things in a shop is an offence. Possessing specialist machinery such as credit card skimming devices is also illegal, as is the sale and purchase of these devices. Potentially, a laptop computer could be illegal too if used to try and remotely hack into someone's wireless network and take their details. Identity fraud and credit card fraud are usually covered by this legislation.
The most common cheque fraud occurs when someone buys goods with a stolen or fake cheque. Once the cheque has cleared the buyer obtains the goods, but when the fraud is discovered the money can be reclaimed from the seller. Typically high value items such as cars are bought in this way. The buyer may also write the cheque for a greater amount than the purchase price and ask for the surplus to be paid to him.
Insurance fraud is common and can take many forms. It may involve claiming insurance for items that never existed or over claiming for items that did. It could also involve arranging to have your car stolen and house burned down in order to claim the insurance money. Sometimes, however, stressful situations such as occur in the course of family or work life can result in people making mistakes and make an incorrect claim.
This is an investment fraud named after Charles Ponzi who used it to great effect in the 1920s. It involves offering very high returns to investors over a short period, for example 15% over 28 days. People invest some and then sure enough get their 15% after 28 days. These investors will put more money in and spread the word. The new investors' money will be used to pay the older investors. The scheme will eventually collapse and the promoter will vanish with the investments.
Businesses act as tax collectors for the government, saving up the VAT from sales they make and before paying it all to Customs and Excise. If a business buys goods from an EU member state, they pay no VAT on them, but will still charge VAT to their customers. When a business disappears and does not pay the VAT to Customs and Excise, this is called Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) Fraud, or "Carousel Fraud".
Sentencing for Fraud Offences
The maximum sentence for fraud is 10 years imprisonment whereas for possessing articles for use in a fraud it is 5 years. These are obviously serious sentences but by taking the correct approach, they can be avoided. Cooperation with the authorities is very important. Even in cases of professional operations involving millions of pounds it can have a substantial effect on the sentence and for the lower level crimes, it can reduce a sentence to a fine or discharge.
A counterfeit is any item made to imitate something else and sold to deceive the buyer into thinking it is a genuine article. A 'knockoff' is like a counterfeit, but the buyer knows that it is a fake. Common examples are prescription drugs, clothes, CDs and DVDs, watches, jewels and currency.
Counterfeiting currency is said to undermine the economy of the country and for this reason it is treated much more seriously by the courts.
We are currently acting in a Trading Standards case on behalf someone accused of conspiring to supply counterfeit goods on Ebay. There are 16 other defendants in this case.
Sentencing in counterfeiting cases
The guidelines state that counterfeiting currency on any level will almost always result in jail time. This is to deter others and punish. The most important factor is the quantity of notes. A persuasive and effective argument from experienced solicitors is crucial in getting the most favourable sentence possible.
Passports and IDs
Possessing, manufacturing and distributing false documents are very serious offences. They have become more important in recent years and the availability of false documents has also increased.
Possessing articles or equipment to produce false documents is an offence. Printers, scanners, laminators, computers, software and blank passports or IDs are all required to make false documents. It is usually a sophisticated operation involving multiple parties. Forensics are very important in these cases in order to prove not only that the documents are not genuine, but that they were produced in the way the prosecution claim and by the people the prosecution accuse.
Mere possession of a false passport or ID document is an offence. Sometimes however people will come to the UK wanting to work legitimately and earn for their family, but get pushed into acquiring false papers in order to do so.
Sentencing for Passport and ID offences
Passport and ID offences are also treated harshly by the courts. International events and public concern over security mean that sentences today are high as a deterrent. Producing passports on a large 'professional' scale can result in 8-10 years imprisonment. Being involved in such an operation but on a lower level, such as a courier or deliverer can result in a sentence of 4-5 years. For just possessing a false passport, even innocently for work purposes, the sentencing guidelines state 12-18 months in jail is appropriate.
Proceeds of Crime Proceedings after Fraud or Complex Crime Cases
The types of cases discussed above often involve large profits and sums of money. There are often proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act (see section on left toolbar) afterwards and attempts can be made by the authorities to recover criminal profits. It is particularly important to bear the possibility of these proceedings in mind when dealing with any fraud or large scale illegal business allegations.