In a uniquely Canadian development, the RCMP recently busted three men who were running what the Mounties have called a “complex and sophisticated operation” involving more than three million dollars’ worth of lobster.
The RCMP began their investigation into the operation in July 2015 when allegations came to light that a man had defrauded a lobster company of $175,000 during the previous fishing season. As part of their investigation, the RCMP investigated allegations by a different lobster company that claimed that they had been defrauded of more than $500,000 in the same season.
In the subsequent fishing season, the RCMP investigated fraud allegations made by three other lobster companies, including a third Nova Scotia company that claimed they were defrauded of more than $1.7 million and another one in Taiwan which claimed that they were defrauded of more than $250,000.
The three men at the center of the allegations were ultimately arrested last week. The RCMP has not provided any further details about the investigation, noting that none of the allegations had been proven in court as of yet. The police did mention that all three men have “substantial reach and influence” on both the Canadian and international markets, also stating that
“[lobster fishing is] a multimillion-dollar industry. And where there’s opportunity, there’s also crimes of opportunity. It seems as though that is what transpired here.”
The Lobster Industry in Canada
The lobster business is the most lucrative of all the fishing industries in Canada, generating more than $2.03 billion in revenue in 2015. Approximately 30,000 “harvesters” are employed in 10,000 licensed enterprises across Quebec and the Maritimes, with the biggest fishery being in Nova Scotia, where there are more than 3,000 people involved in the industry.
The RCMP investigation was carried out with assistance from other organizations, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries.
Fraud and Theft
The three men are facing multiple counts of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000. All have been released on conditions and are scheduled to appear in court on August 24th. We will continue to monitor developments in this case and will blog about updates as they become available.
Theft occurs when an individual takes or uses something that does not belong to them without the permission of the owner of that thing. Under the Criminal Code, theft falls into two categories: theft under $5,000, or, as in this case, theft over $5,000. Beyond the difference in value of items stolen, the difference between the two charges is the value of the stolen property and the potential punishment if the thief is found guilty. A conviction for theft under $5,000 can result in a maximum sentence of up to 2 years in prison, whereas a conviction for theft over $5,000 carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years.
Under the Criminal Code fraud occurs when a person “by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means…defrauds the public or any person…of any property, money or valuable security or any service.” Like theft, fraud is divided into two different charges: fraud under $5,000 and fraud over $5,000. The maximum sentence for fraud over $5,000 is 14 years in prison.
If you have been charged with fraud, theft, or any related offense, contact the Oshawa theft lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905 404 1947. We will take the necessary steps to protect your best interests, both in the short and long term. We offer a free initial consultation to all prospective clients.