Ex-lieutenant-governor Thibault and the Robin Hood-defence in fraud

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Net Patrol International Inc.  Data Investigation and Forensic Services
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustees

Can you justify fraud? Is there an excuse that can whitewash fraudulently taking money from victims?

Today the 77-year-old Lise Thibault was released after six months of jail. She claimed more than $700,000 in inappropriate expenses during her tenure as lieutenant governor of Quebec. She also distributed some $1,5 million to help establish 31 resorts of para-apline skiing. Thibault, who is herself in a wheelchair, is a ‘Robin Hood’ for the disabled, according to her lawyer (read more).

People who say they committed fraud to right a social wrong and not for personal gain, use the so called the Robin Hood-defence. The heroic outlaw Robin Hood stole money from the rich to give to the poor. Defendants who use this tactic often believe their conduct was honest from liability for theft because they were doing it for the benefit of the community.

Some fraud victims inquire as to whether it is worth attempting a recovery from a fraudster who advises that he or she gave all of the money away to others, such as to charity or the poor. But the Courts have rejected the Robin Hood-defence and obtaining recovery from these fraudsters is absolutely possible. The Robin Hood-defence should never work as the actions of the defendant are still dishonest, regardless of the subjective intent.

The civil fraud case at Bell Canada

*CORRECTION* CHANGES DAY OF THE WEEK FROM WEDNESDAY TO THURSDAY. A Bell store is seen on Bloor Street West in Toronto, Thursday, August 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Galit Rodan Galit Rodan/Toronto Star

Bell Canada

From 2010 to 2012, one of Bell’s employees, Lorraine Reid engaged in a scheme in which she sent cheques from Bell to family members and friends who she felt were experiencing financial hard times. The various cheques – in values from $1,000 to $30,000 – totaled over $145,000. She worked in the accounting department of Bell and was responsible for sending refunds to Bell’s clients on accounts for which they had overpaid over time. Instead of returning the money to Bell’s clients, Reid changed the payee instructions to that of her family and friends and had cheques from Bell sent to them.

The fraudulent conduct was discovered by Bell security in June 2012. They reported the matter to police, but as often occurs the case was lost in the police backlog for almost two years. The claim was therefore issued on February 2014 and criminal charges were laid in January 2015. In addition to arresting Reid, the police also arrested her family members and friends as being recipients of the proceeds of her unlawful Robin Hood conduct (read more)

The fraudster diverted approximately $145,000 from Bell’s customers to give to her family and friends. The Court’s endorsement contained the following quote:

Reid states that she is not liable in fraud, conversion and breach of fiduciary duty because she gave money to poor defendants and did not benefit herself. She advances a so-called “Robin Hood” justification. While the story of Robin Hood is an entertaining children’s tale, both children and most adults understand that stealing for any reason is wrong. No such defence is recognized in law, need I say more?

In January 2016, Bell made the recovery in a full amount of the judgment, plus interest and costs. The lawyer handling the case, Norman Groot, said: “Reid mortgaged her home to pay the judgment. The criminal matter remains outstanding as against Reid and her family and friends. As the motion Bell brought in the civil courts was for partial summary judgment, Bell still has the option of seeking further recovery from Reid, her family and friends for consequential losses as well.”

Robin Hood-defences to fraud in the United States

The Robin Hood defence to fraud has also been rejected in American cases. In one such case, Joyce Crain, a medical professional, was involved in a scheme where she forged doctor’s signatures for over $100,000 of prescription medication which she gave to patients who could not afford to pay for it. The following submissions were made in that case:

Robin Hood is merely a folk hero. He’s a character born for the purposes of sheer entertainment with heroic motivations absent of reality. In other words, Robin Hood never had to deal with the complexities of healthcare fraud litigation. In real life, donning the Robin Hood persona doesn’t work. It just doesn’t mesh with the structures and laws of modern society (read more).