Former Ministry of Children and Family Development social worker, Robert Riley Saunders, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and using a forged document.
Saunders was originally accused of stealing from dozens of youth in his care and faced 13 criminal charges: 10 counts of fraud over $5,000, and breach of trust by a public officer.
Although Saunders pleaded guilty, this does not mean there is complete clarity on the accusations against Saunders as the Crown tends to reduce charges facing the accused.
The BC Prosecution Service declared that March 21 to 29, 2022 has been set aside for a Gardiner Hearing – a hearing which is held when the parties do not agree on the facts of the case relating to the charge. Once the hearing is completed, the sentencing judge will make findings of fact on those conflicted matters, and then schedule a sentencing hearing.
There were civil cases concluded last year which accused Saunders of defrauding children in ministry. on Oct. 23, 2020, a multi-million-dollar settlement for Saunders’ victims was reached with the B.C. government and approved by Justice Alan Ross of the Supreme Court of B.C.
The civil suits alleged that Saunders would open joint bank accounts with the youth under his care, and then would withdraw government money that was supposed to be used for the children.
Monday’s court appearance discovered that Saunders allegedly stole up to $500,000 over multiple years. Consequently, various youths in his care claim his actions left them homeless and put them in vulnerable positions which commonly led to drug addictions.
In December 2020, Saunders was arrested and charged but has been out on bail since.