If I fraud someone, invest their money and pay it back is there any criminal offense? Does fraud require damages? Will most judges realistically treat this a criminal case?

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    If you rob a bank, spend the money, win the lottery and pay it back, is it still a crime?
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 26, 2019 at 21:50
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    @RonBeyer your case is different, because the robber has not committed fraud, but theft. And yes, it would still be a crime, even if you pay the money back later. Mar 26, 2019 at 22:24
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    I feel like the last question should be edited out because it doesn't make sense. A case is either criminal or civil. Civil and criminal statutes are different (though sometimes related) and only a government prosecutor can bring a criminal charge against a person, while anyone can file civil charges. Most importantly, the a set of facts can give rise to both civil and criminal cases, or it could be sufficient for some but not others, or none. Mar 27, 2019 at 3:28
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    Did you mean: "If I tell someone I put his money in some investment A, but I put his money into a different investment B, and then pay him back at the agreed time with the amount he expects if his money was invested in A, is it fraud?"
    – Alexander
    Mar 27, 2019 at 16:25
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    Did you also pay interest on your fraudulently-acquired "loan"?
    – RonJohn
    Mar 27, 2019 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


If a person is wrongfully deprived of money (or something else of value) for a period, that is damage, even if the money is later repaid. The victim might have used the money in some profitable or advantageous way during the period when it was taken. But the victim need not prove exactly how s/he might have profited, it is enough to show that the victim was wrongfully deprived of something of value.

Of course, there are other elements to fraud. There must have been a lie or deception, on which the victim reasonably relied. There must have been intent that the victim so relay. The deception must have been material and must have directly caused or led to the damage. (Or have gotten the Fraudster a benefit that would not have been provided had the victim known the truth.)

But assuming that all the elements of fraud are proved, restitution, even full restitution with interest, does not excuse the fraud.

However, as a practical matter, if offered full restitution on condition of a release or an agreement not to prosecute, many victims will choose to take it, preferring their money back, perhaps with interest, to a legal case, even a winning one.

  • Would the deception be material if there was no cost?
    – user24954
    Mar 27, 2019 at 1:05
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    @user24954 "material" in this context usually means that the deception influenced the decision, or that it might have influenced the decision of a reasonable person. "caused or led to the damage" is also an element of fraud, and if there was no damage there was no fraud (possilby attempted fraud). But a cost later repaid is not "no damage". Mar 27, 2019 at 1:12
  • I wonder where the line of wrongfully deprived is drawn. If I tell you "give me $1000, and in 6 months I will return you $5000 from the Nigerian prince I represent", but instead start a food truck business with the $1000, and give you the $5k as promised, I've clearly done something unethical, but nobody was deprived of anything they didn't agree to.
    – mbrig
    Mar 27, 2019 at 19:22
  • @mbrig Thew risk that the food truck would fail to earn enough to pay back $5k is probably higher than the risk that the Prince won't have the cash. The was materiel deception with the intent of gain a benefit that would not otherwise have been gained. In most jurisdictions, that is also fraud. The damage was in getting the investor to take a risk that s/he would not have with accurate info. Mar 27, 2019 at 19:52

You say "criminal fraud", if you mean exactly that, then no, returning the money, or offering even more money, will not be a defense.

You committed a crime and can be convicted for it even if you gave back more money than the complainant had "lost".

There may be a case for if someone initiated civil proceedings against you on the basis of fraud, since you can simply pay whatever damages that person may seek, and settle the claim.

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    But note that fraud may entitle the victim to triple damages, or other damages beyond simple restitution, so the damages the victim may seek might not be the same as the original loss. Mar 27, 2019 at 1:14

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