A Chaldean Catholic priest of London has been charged with the theft of $500,000 that was raised to help sponsor refugees for resettlement. The 51-year-old clergyman has been under investigation since February for misappropriation of funds meant for the church-sponsored program.
The Canadian Press reports that the money had been donated by more than 20 individuals. According to The Huffington Post Canada, family members had given the money to help sponsor loved ones overseas such as in Iraq or Syria.
The investigation reportedly involved not only Ontario, but also the U.S. and other countries where prospective Canadian refugees resided.
According to the Hamilton Spectator, the priest allegedly lost the money by gambling it away. He has been charged with fraud exceeding $5,000 as well as possession of proceeds of property or things worth more than $5,000.
The Canadian Criminal Code provides that a fraud conviction when the amount exceeds $5,000 can bring a prison term of up to 14 years. The Code provides further that when a court determines the appropriate sentence, it may consider certain aggravating circumstances, including:
- Whether the “magnitude, complexity, duration or degree of planning” was significant
- Whether there were many victims
- Whether the defendant’s good reputation was used to his or her advantage in committing the fraud
- Whether records were concealed
- And more
Anyone accused of fraud or a similar crime should seek legal representation immediately to mount a vigorous defence. Not only is the potential sentence serious, but also the damage to reputation in the community can be irreparable. A lawyer handling a fraud case will consult with experts such as forensic accountants to help evaluate the evidence, which can consist of complex and voluminous documents.