Fraudulent social worker Robert Riley Saunders gets 5 years in prison in Kelowna, BC.

a notorious kelownaA fraudster who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the name of youth in his care has been sentenced to five years in prison for fraud.

Robert Riley Saunders also received two years for breach of trust and one month for using forged degrees from the University of Manitoba, which were to be served concurrently. He pleaded guilty to these charges more than a year ago.

“Greed was the only motivating factor behind Mr. Saunders’ fraud. He was able to enjoy a lavish lifestyle he could not afford, only as a result of the fraud,” BC Supreme Court Justice Steven Wilson said in sentencing.

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Wilson said he acknowledged that Saunders was not prepared to intentionally harm anyone, but did not care whether he did.

“I think Mr Saunders was indifferent to the effect his actions might have on the people he was obliged to help, because he did not think it was worthwhile to help and everyone on his part Efforts will be futile and futile,” Wilson said.

To illustrate his point, he cited a line from Saunders’ pre-sentence report.

“It appears that Mr Saunders’ moral and ethical compass in his career with the MCFD was as good as he could get away with,” the report said.

Saunders stole an estimated $460,000 from the Ministry of Children and Family Development with a scheme that involved forged documents and dodgy bank accounts.

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During the trial, Wilson explained the nature of the scandal that made Saunders rich.

Wilson said, “(He) shall open a joint account in the name of both himself and the youth and then (due) a check will be issued, which, payable to the youth, will be credited to the joint account.”

“In most cases they then transferred funds from the joint account to their personal account in the same institution. In other cases, he cashed the check directly into his personal account. Most of the checks were under $600.”

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Saunders, he said, typically issued two checks per person per month to youth, each reported to shelter and aid in the amount of $579. Another $600 was earmarked for startup funds.

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Shelter and support payments are ongoing, while startup funds are typically lump-sum payments.

“The lion’s share of the money misappropriated by Mr. Saunders was in the former category,” Wilson said.

“Over a period of six-and-a-half years, Mr. Saunders opened 24 such bank accounts and issued more than 850 ministry checks, totaling more than $460,000. It is believed that there was no valid reason to open a joint account with the youth.

All this did not become known until December 2017, when Saunders’ regular supervisor was on leave and another stepped down as his team’s lead.

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“Mr. Saunders put his interests ahead of others. His motivation was greed, as he supplemented his modest income as a social worker through his fraudulent scheme.

Wilson reported that Saunders’ average take-home employment income was $4,000 a month. By 2015 he doubled it through his plan. By 2017 he had tripled his take-home income.

In the pre-sentence report, the author said that Saunders used the money to “create an identity of being wealthy, wanting to connect with others who enjoyed similar lifestyles.”

“That lifestyle included a very nice house, vehicles, a boat and many trips and vacations. While he was enjoying the spoils of his plan, the youth in his care struggled, as victim impact statements explained. Has gone. “

This notion is contrary to what Saunders tried to argue. He said the crime was not a victim and the youths engaged in their care were not entitled to the money taken by them. That notion was debunked in a seven-day trial before sentencing.

Wilson said there was no way to know whether each of the 24 youth in Mr Saunders’s care would have done better if they had been given the opportunities the ministry was set up to provide them.

“However, every youth is important and deserved respect,” Wilson said.

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While Saunders told the court that he tried to kill himself after being caught and has since had suicidal thoughts, he is now being treated. His relationship with his two adult children deteriorated and it became difficult to find work.

“There is no question that Mr Saunders has suffered as a result of his actions,” Wilson said. “He lost his job along with his reputation and reputation. She has also lost her relationship with her two children, both of whom have apparently separated themselves from her. However, in many cases, humiliation and loss of reputation is an inevitable consequence of committing the crime.”

Following the sentencing, the British Columbia Association of Social Workers lent its support behind Wilson’s decision, saying it believed “it is up to the B.C. government to act to protect the public through professional regulation.” sends a message.”

“Justice Steven Wilson sentenced Robert Riley Saunders to five years and, in doing so, believed that he acted in a premeditated manner, that his crimes had a significant impact on the children and youth in his care, and that he took advantage of the situation. Rights on the victims” said BCASW President Michael Crawford.

“Saunders deprived young people of the resources they needed to succeed in life, especially when they were leaving the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It didn’t need to be like this.”

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The BC Association of Social Workers is engaged in a campaign to strengthen professional social work and protect the public as a whole. The campaign aims to amend the BC Social Workers Act so that all social workers in BC are registered with the BC College of Social Workers for the purpose of regulating social work practice and overseeing the practice of social workers.

The campaign also seeks to ensure that the title “social worker” is completely protected from use by unregulated individuals. Currently, the Ministry of Child and Family Development administers the Social Worker Act and exempts its employees from the requirements of the Act which calls for all social workers to be registered.

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