Fraud charges stayed against bankrupt Nunavut taxi operator

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Crown lawyers have stayed a long-standing fraud charge against Rankin Inlet taxi operator David Wiseman with only weeks to go before a trial by jury was scheduled.

According to documents filed with the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, Crown prosecutor Shannon O’Conner filed paperwork on Dec. 30 that stays one count of fraud that Wiseman had been facing.

To “stay” a charge is a legal term for discontinuing a prosecution of an alleged act.

But it’s not the same as a complete withdrawal of charges.

In a stay of proceedings, lawyers have up to a year to revive a prosecution.

Wiseman, the former owner of S&G Taxi Co. in Rankin Inlet, was accused of one count of committing a fraudulent act, under section 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.

That charge replaced two earlier counts of falsifying documents and using misleading receipts laid against Wiseman in 2015, stemming from allegations that Wiseman filed bogus insurance claims with Aviva Canada in 2013 after a fire at his garage.

But further review of potential evidence by the RCMP, at the request of the Crown, failed to turn up a reasonable prospect for conviction, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada’s Nunavut office confirmed to Nunatsiaq News, Jan. 11.

The alleged fraudulent claims in question were valued at over $50,000.

Wiseman’s trial by jury was scheduled to take place in Rankin Inlet on Jan. 29.

According to court documents, seven witnesses had already been subpoenaed by the Crown to testify at the trial.

They included an insurance fraud investigator employed by Aviva Canada and the RCMP officer responsible for laying the original charges.

Aviva Canada’s original accusations against Wiseman alleged that he falsely requested compensation for the rental of industrial heaters after a fire at his taxi garage, and included “a fictional vendor” on the invoice for the heaters.

Aviva’s allegations are still described on the insurance company’s website.

Investigators had already ruled that the fire itself was accidental.

In submissions to the court, the Crown alleged that Wiseman had a possible motivation to commit the alleged fraud because of his “dire financial situation” after accepting a $941,105 loan from the Nunavut Business Credit Corp. in 2012.

Wiseman stopped making payments to the NBCC shortly before he filed the allegedly bogus insurance claim.

A judge eventually declared Wiseman bankrupt in a separate civil suit launched against him by the NBCC in 2016, which forfeited the remaining assets of his business to the Edmonton-based insolvency firm, MNP Ltd.

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This story was summarized by Canadian Fraud News Inc.