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There are several variations of the advance fee fraud offence. Although Nigeria is a country that is often referred to for these scams, they typically originate in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The earliest recorded advance fee fraud is known as the Spanish Prisoner scam – first implemented in the 18th century. A small amount of money was requested to bribe correctional officers to free a very wealthy prisoner in Spain. In exchange for assistance, it was promised that there would be plenty of money to receive once the prisoner was free.
More modern advance fee fraud scams that most people are familiar with are employment scams, bogus job offers, lottery scams, scarce pet scams and phoney conferences.
If you’re part of advance fee fraud investigations, there’s no doubt that you will find it to be upsetting and stressful. You’ll feel frightened about what might happen to you. Will you be given a large fine and a hefty prison sentence? How will you financially support your dependents without an income?
To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of an advance fee fraud, we’ve put together details on the sentencing guidelines below. Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.
The typical advance fee fraud case involves receiving a reward in exchange for a small financial investment. Most people are aware of the scam that offers money in exchange for bank account details.
Here are some other examples of advance fee fraud that may have led to the situation at hand.
Inheritance fraud – for example, this is when a potential victim is told that a wealthy relative has added them to the will, or that they are the only surviving relative and due to receive a large sum of money.
Sports tipster scams – for instance, when so-called experts or tipsters share their ‘knowledge’ to help a person to win horse racing or other sports bets.
Online dating scams – this can happen when a seeker of romance will meet a person they like on an online dating app or website. The person they are interested in will work hard to gain trust and then ask the first person to send them money for reasons that are full of emotion.
Lottery prize scams – for instance, fraudsters will contact a person and inform them that they’ve won a prize draw or have won a sweepstake or lottery.
Career opportunity scams – fake job opportunities are posted by false companies and payment is required to access further information that does then not materialise.
There are many other examples. If you would like to know more about whether a crime that you’ve been linked to is classified as an advance fee fraud crime, you can always contact us for further information.
An advance-fee fraud case is usually heard at a Crown Court. If you are found guilty and convicted, you may be given up to ten years imprisonment, given a fine or even receive both. The maximum sentence of ten years is usually given to the most serious of cases.
It’s important to note that the information that is given to judges with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse, the seriousness of the crime and the amount of harm caused.
The following factors are also considered when the court decides which sentence to give. The court will look at:
Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In advance fee fraud cases, they may include:
In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost in addition to giving protection to witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.
‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This scale goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is entered after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.
A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an advance fee fraud offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.
Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of advance fee fraud include:
As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.
In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:
Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors
Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the charges of:
The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.
There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC). Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.
If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of advance fee fraud, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.
Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
|Sentence||Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction||Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction|
|Prison sentences of more than 4 years||Sentence is never spent||Sentence is never spent|
|Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years||Sentence length 7 years||Sentence length 3.5 years|
|Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months)||Sentence length +4 years||Sentence length +2 years|
|Prison sentences of less than 6 months||Sentence length + 2 years||Sentence length +18 months|
|Conditional Discharge||Length of order||Length of order|
|Conditional Caution||3 months||3 months|
|Simple Caution / Youth Caution||None – immediately ‘spent’||None – immediately ‘spent’|
|Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order||Length of the order / once compensation is paid||Length of the order / once compensation is paid|
If you’ve been contacted by the police and arrested, charged or even just invited to the police station for a chat, it’s vital that you seek legal guidance immediately. Communicating in any way with the police without legal support can put you at significant risk of being given a term in prison.
The primary goal of the police is to secure convictions. They do this by trying a range of different approaches and techniques in a bid to get you to incriminate yourself. They will not disclose all the evidence that they have against you and are going to use as part of their prosecution.
Some evidence is likely to be withheld from your knowledge or vision, but by having an experienced advance fee fraud legal expert by your side, you can give yourself some protection against the police and their tactics.
Another benefit of engaging competent and experienced advance fee fraud lawyers is that they can provide you with guidance on what to say and what not to say. The police will ask you many questions, and this can be gruelling and exhausting. With a legal professional by your side, you can answer confidently, knowing that you’re not getting yourself into deeper and hotter water.
Your solicitor can immediately begin to create a robust defence strategy to secure you the best possible outcome should your case reach court. Alternatively, your solicitor may even be able to get your case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.
If there are other people involved who have been accused and are involved in your case, it’s critical that you know what’s being said by whom. Accessing this information isn’t always possible, but there is a good chance that your lawyer will be able to make contact with the other legal help involved in this case to minimise damage.
We handle advance fee fraud cases regularly and have deep expertise in this field. We can help you by recommending the best course of action to take to mitigate the outcome. No matter what size your case is, get in touch.
Our specialist advance fee fraud solicitors have expertise and skill defending allegations of fraud. We have acted for clients suggested to have received millions of pounds advance payments in return for promises of securing goods and services. We understand the likelihood of police intervention destroying the business-plan and restricting the continuance of the proposed project.
One such case in which early intervention and practical advice led to a successful result is described in our Notable Case section and titled ‘Advance Fee Fraud – RvK £126 Million Fraud Case Dropped’.
Regardless of the allegation or the extent of the alleged fraud, you will find our fraud solicitors dedicated to achieving the best possible result in your case. We seek to engage very early and take any steps reasonable to prevent the investigation from reaching the Court. If matters are prosecuted, we have the commercial awareness to understand the business concepts and proposals in the case. The critical issue in an advance fee fraud case is often the intention and expectation of the parties. Whether the monies paid were spent on furthering the agreed objective or for some other purpose and whether in fact, there was a genuine intention to advance the business proposal or investment scheme pitched.
If promises are made, it is for the prosecution to prove by producing evidence of the promise. It is not for the defence to prove that the promise of unrealistic expectation wasn’t made! In doing so, the prosecution will inevitably rely on evidence extracted from mobile phones and computers. Our fraud solicitors have access to some of the best forensic experts, computer analysts and financial examiners in the UK who can be called in to provide supporting evidence.
A fundamental part of the case will be revealed from the records kept by you. We will not only analyse these records meticulously, but we will also continue to explore the evidence to collect, retain and present any materials which will support your defence case; including obtaining witness statements from witnesses in the UK or abroad.
We will instruct barristers and QCs whom we know have first-class experience and knowledge in defending fraud cases and those barristers who will deliver their best performance in and out of the Court.
Our fraud solicitors have immense experience defending advance fee fraud cases. We are not only knowledgeable and experienced with the Fraud Act 2006 but also with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 which will present money laundering, restraint order and then confiscation issues.
In any legal case, early action is pivotal to increasing the chances of success. In cases of this nature, you will require specialist advice at every step. If you have been served with a Restraint Order, you have had cash seized or your money confiscated; rest assured our fraud lawyers will advise you on all aspects of the fraud investigation or prosecution.
If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today. In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.
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