Welfare fraudster receives four month jail sentence

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall woman has been given a four month jail sentence for a number of convictions including welfare fraud.

Carrie Anderson had earlier pleaded guilty to fraud, uttering forged documents, assault, theft and failing to comply with a court order to notify authorities of a change of address.

However, Judge Gilles Renaud felt Carrie Anderson, 25, was a good candidate for rehabilitation and recommended early parole when delivering his sentence Friday.

The sentence includes a year of probation. Because there’s a domestic violence conviction, there’s a five year weapons ban and a no-contact order with the victim.

“There are a number of matters that the pre-sentence report highlights and (defence lawyer) Mr. (Bill) Wade, in his helpful submissions reviewed with me, that indicate there is a high degree of rehabilitative potential. In rereading the pre-sentence report, I am of the view that I can give greater credit to that situation,” Judge Renaud said.

But the judge also noted there had been a “high degree of socialization” in the past that had “not led to the right result,” referring of Anderson’s previous conditional sentence. “This individual is also someone who committed these offences at a time when, not only ought she to have known better, she did in fact know better,” Renaud said.

Renaud believed the Crown prosecutor’s suggestion of six months jail was not necessary given the promising outlook for rehabilitation. But he felt the defence suggestion of a house arrest sentence was not appropriate “because of the nature and number of the wrongdoings.”

Judge Renaud also highlighted the nature of the welfare fraud, how long it had been going on and the way it was carried out as reasons for a jail sentence. “I’m of a view that a house arrest sentence would not be consistent with proper sentencing principles,” he said.

But the judge wanted the sentence to reflect “the strong terms and consideration” for an early or expedited parole hearing.

Anderson had a second opportunity to address the court before sentencing, where she told Judge Renaud that she was sorry for “wasting everybody’s time” and that she was planning to attend summer school and pursue counselling.

The concurrent sentences were 75 days for assault, 30 days for a breach of probation, 90 days for the theft of a cell phone and a breach of a court order and 120 days for the welfare fraud against Ontario Works.

Anderson will also have to make restitution to Ontario Works for $10,723.48 and will have significant victim fine surcharges associated with the convictions.

But Judge Renaud will allow Anderson to make payments to the “true victim” first – Ontario Works – and the “symbolic victim” – the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General – will be paid after the $10,723.48 is paid back. The judge was favourable to granting extensions to Anderson, provided she was consistently paying back the Ontario government.

Following the ruling, defence lawyer Bill Wade told Cornwall Newswatch he was somewhat disappointed with the ruling.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed he didn’t accept the conditional sentence however it was a fairly significant welfare fraud over a period of time and general deterrence is always a primary factor in sentences on these types of things,” Wade said.

“I’m really optimistic about the expedited parole. The sooner she gets a chance at that the sooner she can try and get some help,” he said.

Wade suggested counselling will be an important step for Carrie because she has suffered over the years. During sentencing submissions in May, court heard she suffers from PTSD and had a “troubled upbringing that has left Carrie incredibly scarred,” including a long-time drug addiction.

With the concurrent sentences and the four month jail term, Wade believes the judge was showing a lot of restraint.

“He kept the custodial sentences, frankly, to a minimum and certainly the running of concurrent sentences shows he was trying to exercise as much restraint as he could while still following the principles of sentencing,” Wade said.

As for the restitution, Judge Renaud extending the time to pay is a “very nice opportunity for her to at least make some effort and as long as she does, Judge Renaud has always been good about extending the periods for people to pay particularly where they have particularly limited resources,” Wade said.

“When Carrie gets out she’s going to have extremely limited resources.”

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