Jennifer Taverner, 42, sentenced to 12 months jail for $47K fraud against disabled man

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Breaking Fraud Cases from Canadian Courts

At Canadian Fraud News, we report on decisions issued by Canadian Courts related to fraud, that are not reported in the main stream media, and that contain legal issues the Canadian public and fraud recovery experts should be aware of. The following is one such story.

On June 28, 2017, the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa sentenced Jennifer Taverner, a former employee of Ottawa-Carleton Lifeskills Inc., to 12 months jail for a long-term fraud perpetrated against a disabled man in her care.

Ottawa-Carleton Lifeskills Inc. is an organization providing support to individuals in the community allowing them to live independently. Ms. Taverner was assigned to a developmentally disabled adult (the client) to assist him with his finances, shopping and to manage his medical issues.

Ms. Taverner had been assigned to the client since 2006. She had joint signing authority over his bank account. Payments from government agencies were received into his bank account. The client trusted Ms. Taverner to make payments with his debit card, and to provide him spending cash.

In 2010 Ms. Taverner began using her client’s money for her own personal purposes. By April 2016, Ms. Taverner had conducted 871 transactions for her own personal benefit totaling $47,045.41.

The fraud was discovered when Ms. Taverner went on vacation, and the client received a notice from his landlord that his rent had not been paid. It was then discovered by his family that his accounts had been significantly depleted.

The Crown sought a 15 month jail sentence. Ms. Taverner asked for a conditional sentence (house arrest). The Court held that general deterrence and denunciation were the primary objectives of sentencing, and that a conditional sentence was not appropriate in these circumstances.

Impact on Sentence of Payment of Restitution Prior to Sentence

The Court considered the importance of a fraudster making restitution to the victim prior to sentencing with the following statements:

An offender’s ability and willingness to pay restitution is an important consideration in the sentencing of fraud and related offences…

The payment of full restitution before sentencing ‘might’ be a ‘special’ circumstance justifying a conditional sentence where a prison sentence is otherwise appropriate.”. …

[However], in large fraud cases involving a breach of trust, a genuine offer to make full restitution, while important, must take a secondary role to the sentencing objectives of general deterrence and denunciation.”

It is a significant mitigating factor in this case that the full restitution of the fraud was paid to the victim in advance of the sentencing hearing. This important element seems to have been considered in Crown counsel’s position of 15 months jail.

Mrs. Taverner, early in the process, took steps to pay the restitution. Once the total amount of the fraud was established, she took further steps to pay that total amount. She sold her home and borrowed from family to ensure the full amount of the restitution was paid.

Breach of Trust, Cost of Accounting, and Term of Fraud Result in Incarceration

The Court imposed a 12 month jail sentence primarily because of the breach of trust nature of the fraud, and the victim impact statement. The Court quoted the victim’s statement:

“The [stolen funds included] settlement money was for abuse that I suffered as a child, and I feel abused by Jennifer Taverner stealing my money while I was told not to spend it.”

The Court also noted that it cost $25,000 to have a third party to evaluate the documents to accurately quantify and audit the client’s losses. The scheme was nothing complex or sophisticated but it still required months for at least three individuals, the investigating officer, a law student and a legal assistant to go through the records and quantify the fraud.

The Court also rejected Ms. Taverner’s explanation of the offence being out of character. The Court held that:

“To characterize 871 fraudulent transactions over a period of six years, as decisions out of character, seems a bit of a stretch.”

Mitigating Factors

The Court demonstrated that it considered the submissions of Ms. Taverner for a reduced sentence:

She is a 42-year-old woman, with no prior criminal history; now diagnosed with depression since her arrest as a result of the predicament before the criminal justice system; mother of three children aged 21, 19 and 15; she pled guilty at the first opportunity, saving considerable court time and stress for the victims; not only showing remorse through her guilty plea but also genuinely expressing it to the victims; and having paid full restitution in advance of the sentencing hearing.

Full Reasons for Sentence

For the full Reasons for Sentence related to this story, see: R. v. Taverner, 2017 ONCJ 469 CanLii .

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