R. v. Varga, 2021 BCPC 286
The Provincial Court of British Columbia case of R. v. Varga demonstrates how seriously Canadian law views instances of fraud where the victim is part of a vulnerable group of people. The offender in this case was a caretaker at a community living home that was tasked with helping the victim, a disabled woman with the mental capacity of a child, with her daily needs. The offender was charged and convicted of fraud over $5,000 after they used the victim’s debit card to withdraw more than $12,000 from their account for the offender’s gain.
The judge noted two of the principles of sentencing criminal offences that applied here. Appropriate punishments must act as a statement against criminal behaviour, while also discouraging other people from behaving similarly. The relationship between the offender and the victim was a critical factor, as the abuse of vulnerable people is an aggravating factor that can increase the punishments offenders face. “Given the duty of trust placed in Ms. Varga as a caregiver and the vulnerability of the victim, I conclude that the aggravating features of this case require a custodial sentence and that a conditional sentence order would not adequately address the need for denunciation and deterrence.” [at para 44]. The resulting sentence for this offence was nine months imprisonment, two years of probation and the offender was ordered to pay a restitution in the amount of $14,000 to the victim.
R. v. Langis, 2018 ONSC 7534
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice case of R. v. Langis was another example of an abuse of a relationship of trust in the employment context. The facts established that the offender defrauded his employer out of around $80,000 over ten months by accessing accounting software as well as using a corporate credit card and falsified documents to purchase goods for their own benefits. This included a set of windows for their own home. This resulted in the offender being convicted of fraud over $5,000 and sentenced to 14 months imprisonment. The court also issued a $40,000 restitution order and prohibited the offender from ever again holding any employment or volunteer position that would involve them having authority over someone else’s money or property.
As in the case above, the abused relationship was an aggravating factor leading to the imposed sentence. As was the personal health and circumstances of the victim. “Mr. Langis breached his position of trust as the restaurant manager as well as the personal trust that his employer, Jim Edwards, had reposed in him. The timing of the offences is significant because they were committed at a time when Mr. Edwards had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and was unable to supervise or give attention to the day to day running of the restaurants. Mr. Edwards trusted that he could focus on his health issue and trusted that Mr. Langis would look after the businesses on his behalf.” [at para 40]
R. v. Theriault, 2022 NBQB 254
The New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench case of R. v. Theriault is an example of fraud committed via fraudulent means. The offender was convicted of fraud over $5,000 after it was found that the offender fraudulently claimed the maximum amount that their disabled son was entitled to under the province’s disability support program. To get the maximum funding over several years, the offender falsified documents and had friends and acquaintances sign blank forms that later claimed they provided services that they either had never given or exaggerated services they had.
While the fraud was proven, the judge noted the exceptional facts of this case and the reasons behind the crime. “The falsehoods she entered on these forms are inherently dishonest, despite any good intentions she may have regarding her son. When she obtained signatures on the billing forms, entered bogus hours, and signed off on the veracity of the information, she knew this was what would get her the money from the Province of New Brunswick the following month. It does not matter what her true intentions were or that in her mind she believed what she was doing was right or would result in no real financial loss to society.” [at para 55] Considering this, the offender was sentenced to 18 months of probation.