An Ontario judge has sentenced a Toronto firefighter to six months in jail for benefits fraud.

Bradley Evaschuk, 48, joined the Toronto fire service in 1996. During the period between February 2009 and October 2013, according to a sentencing ruling last week, Evaschuk submitted 23 fraudulent health benefits claims and 300 forged invoices, seeking payment of about $32,000. Payments made to Evaschuk for the claims totalled $23,130.15. According to Superior Court Justice Susan Woodley’s sentencing decision, the claims sought repayment for expenses never incurred for services never rendered to Evaschuk, his former common law spouse or their children.

Read: Ontario police officer charged with fraud over benefits claims

In October 2013, the fraudulent claims ceased after the City of Toronto’s benefits provider advised that the account was under audit. In September 2014, the city suspended Evaschuk from his position.

In January 2017, a jury found Evaschuk guilty of one count of fraud over $5,000. It also found him guilty of attempting fraud and seven counts of uttering forged documents. In June, Evaschuck’s counsel noted he had made partial restitution of $10,000 and planned to make full restitution within the following weeks.

In its submissions on sentencing, the Crown requested a 16-month jail sentence with three years’ probation and a restitution order of $23,130.15. In support of its position, the Crown noted the benefits fraud was not spontaneous but “complicated and well planned.”

Read: Toronto benefits fraud probe takes a turn as new charges laid over city claims

In addition, the Crown argued Evaschuk’s action constituted a breach of trust as he “defrauded the City of Toronto of monies earmarked for the support of city employees and their dependants who are in need of care. The fraudulent acts constitute a fraud on the public.”

Evaschuk, however, argued for a conditional sentence or house arrest. In part, he blamed his offences on his former partner, suggesting he had been “too trusting” and had failed to use his due diligence, Woodley noted in her sentencing ruling.

In the end, the judge found jail was appropriate, particularly in light of the fact that the crimes occurred while he was before the court and on probation in relation to separate charges.

“Fraud over $5,000 is a serious offence. Fraud is not a crime of impulse and is normally committed by a person who is knowledgeable and likely aware of the consequences,” she wrote.

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“Mr. Evaschuk was in a position of trust as a firefighter, an employee of the City of Toronto, and the plan holder of the health and benefit plan,” she added. “The fraud committed by Mr. Evaschuk as against his health and benefit plan took careful planning and involved multiple layers of document preparation.”

Woodley sentenced Evaschuk to six months in jail, followed by a probation order for 36 months. He must also pay the City of Toronto the remaining amount owed — $13,130. 15 — within five years of his release from custody.

As part of her ruling, Woodley noted the challenges of investigating and prosecuting benefits fraud. “The prevention of frauds of this nature are time consuming and expensive,” she wrote.

“Fraud prevention of this nature requires numerous employees to conduct detailed investigations, forensic reviews, and ongoing surveillance applied to all health claims and plan holder enquiries. Frauds of this nature challenge the availability of health and benefit plans for all employees and their dependants and is not limited to this employer and these employees.”

Read: 100 TTC employees fired or resigned over benefits fraud investigation

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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