An officer from the York Regional Police Service was fired yesterday for benefits fraud, two years after pleading guilty and being suspended with pay.
In the original hearing on Dec. 10, 2015, York Regional Police superintendent Graeme Turl ruled that first class constable Salwa Husseini would have seven days to resign from her position or face termination.
Husseini appealed the decision, arguing he imposed an excessive penalty inconsistent with those faced by other police officers guilty of benefits fraud. She cited three cases from 2015 and one from 2016 in which an officer submitted fraudulent benefits claims and faced only demotion. She also said the hearing officer didn’t give adequate consideration to a number of factors, including the testimony of her character witnesses, her co-operation with the investigation, her guilty pleas to the criminal and Police Services Act charges, the fact she paid back the amounts she received from her plan administrator Sun Life, her attendance at an employee assistance program and her apologies for her actions.
On Feb. 6, 2017, two of the three adjudicators in the Ontario Civilian Police Commission tribunal agreed with Turl, including that the officers guilty of benefits fraud in the 2015 and 2016 cases had significant histories of good service, while Husseini had been with the York Regional Police Service for less than two years before she began defrauding it. Furthermore, when she was questioned about the validity of her benefits claims, she lied twice.
“A significant period of employment unblemished by prior discipline constitutes a mitigating factor,” wrote the adjudicators in their decision. “However, in the case of an officer where the misconduct began shortly after being hired, that will undoubtedly constitute an aggravating factor.”
The third adjudicator thought Turl’s decision contained “a number of significant inconsistencies and omissions in his analysis of the evidence” and that termination was too severe a punishment. He would instead impose a demotion to fourth class constable and a mandatory 12 hours of financial counselling. His dissent, however, was overruled, and because Husseini did not resign, she was fired on Feb. 14, 2017.
“It is our intention to file for judicial review of the [Ontario Civilian Police Commission] decision,” says William MacDonald, Husseini’s lawyer. “. . . She is technically fired unless we have success on the judicial review, and they have the authority to reduce the penalty from dismissal to demotion, and that’s what we’re going to ask them to do.”
From March 2013 to January 2014, Husseini submitted 15 massage therapy claims to Sun Life, the administrator of her employer’s benefits plan. The last claim, submitted on Jan. 17, 2014 for $95, was selected for a random audit. Sun Life examined the claim and determined the amount on the receipt had been altered. Its investigative service unit eventually determined Husseini never received a massage from the stated provider.
In April 2014, Sun Life asked Husseini if she’d like to provide receipts for all the claims she submitted. She replied that all those claims were false and asked if she could repay the money.
Following an investigation that found Husseini had submitted 15 fraudulent claims totalling $1,224.97, she was arrested in October 2014 on two counts of fraud under $5,000 and two counts of uttering a forged document contrary to the Criminal Code.
On Feb. 19, 2015, she pleaded guilty to one count of fraud. The remaining charges were withdrawn, and she was placed on probation, granted a conditional discharge and ordered to repay the claims.