Area of Law: Fraud and Fraud Recovery
Answer # 1536
Criminal restitution orders and limitation periodsRegion: Ontario Answer # 1536
If a fraud victim is successful in obtaining a restitution order in the Criminal Court, which means the fraudster must pay the victim the amount ordered by the Court, the victim can then register the order with the Civil Court.
Under the Criminal Code, the “person to whom the amount was ordered” – meaning the fraud victim in a criminal case – may enter (which means to register or record) a criminal court restitution order (also called a ‘judgment’) in the civil courts. The fraud victim will obtain a declaration that the judgment is a civil debt against the fraudster.
Once a civil judgment has been recorded with the Civil Court, a fraud victim can use all of the same civil debt enforcement procedures as with any civil judgment.
Making a criminal complaint and attempting to obtain a criminal restitution order can be a risky recovery strategy. Often, criminal charges do not result in convictions for various reasons such as, the lack of evidence, the Crown prosecutor not being able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and the lack of resources available to the Crown prosecutor and the police to fully investigate fraud cases. If there is no conviction in Criminal Court, there will be no restitution order for repayment to the fraud victim.
In addition, even in cases where the fraudster is convicted:
- the Criminal Courts are not required to make a restitution order, and
- even if a Criminal Court does make a restitution order, it is often only ordered for a fraction of the real loss.
Recovering the stolen money in Criminal Court is often disappointing. Also, if the victim tries to start a civil claim after the criminal case, they may not be able to pursue it because the time limit under the provincial Limitations Act may have expired.
If you discover you are a victim of fraud, it is a good idea to contact a fraud recovery expert for advice.
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