Editorial: Reform needed to reduce and prosecute financial crime in Canada

Since December 2021, The Leader has reported on the criminal charges of an Iroquois-based property developer who fraudulently took money from three individuals totalling over $1 million. The criminal case has slowly moved through the court system since then. That individual was just sentenced to prison last week, following over a year’s worth of delays.

The crux of the above case dealt with a land developer, who used all the legal means necessary and available to him to delay the case as long as was possible. The April 11, 2024 sentencing was one year after the original sentencing was to take place – thanks to a Constitutional Challenge, delays for potential restitution paid to victims, and even a snow storm. While the weather had a minimal influence on the delays, the legal system in Canada has many ways to slow down justice.

The victims, two in Canada and one in the United States, were out over $1 million. Two of the victims have been repaid what they financially lost. However, the mental anguish, betrayal of trust, and financial hardship the victims had to deal with – and for one victim still continues to deal with – is difficult to assign a monetary value to. The callous disregard for the victims is offensive and mind-boggling. Sadly, crimes like those committed in this local case occur all across Canada, and many go unreported or un-prosecuted.

From online Grandparent fraud calls and speculation property sales, to social media posts for used vehicle sales – there are many schemes out there. Police lack enough resources to track down the criminals behind them as do the court system to prosecute. Some frauds originate outside of Canada, making the jurisdictional boundaries fraught with territorial issues. More of the fraudsters live right here, and continue unfettered.

Often victims are ashamed to come forward, afraid to be judged for having fallen for a gift card, fake bail money, or some other fraud. When prosecuted, larger crimes like property theft and fake investments typically see the perpetrators get a slap on the wrist with the victims left picking up the pieces. That is wrong.

In her ruling last week, the judge presiding over the local case said that deterrence was an important factor in sentencing – both to prevent re-offence and to deter others from committing similar crimes. That deterrence does not happen if crimes are not reported, investigated, and prosecuted to the fullest extent. Similarly on financial crimes, it is far too easy for numbered companies, bank accounts, and access to credit to be given. Steps must be made to tighten those systems to avoid providing an air of legitimacy for potential fraudsters.

The true cost in these crimes is in the damage done to the victims. More investigative and court resources are needed, and financial systems reformed, to lessen that damage and provide less opportunity to fraudsters to take advantage of others.

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