Has pleaded guilty to defrauding EI program of more than $75,000
A former Service Canada employee who has admitted to illegally issuing employment insurance payments to herself will likely face house arrest.
Lawyers in the case of Colleen Esteves made a joint submission Wednesday at St. John’s provincial court for an 18-month conditional sentence with two years of supervised probation. They also recommended that the St. John’s woman be ordered to pay back to the federal government $75,526.
That’s the total value of 78 payments issued from January 2007 to August 2010 to a bank account she shared with her former common-law partner. The 52-year-old pleaded guilty in June to charges of fraud over $1,000 and breach of trust by a public officer.
According to the agreed statement of facts as read Wednesday by Crown prosecutor Philip LeFeuvre, the initial complaint was filed by Esteves’ former common-law partner, who told authorities he received a bill stating he had been paid more than $57,000 in EI benefits. The man had never been an EI claimant.
That figure covered a period from July 2007 to August 2010. It was later determined the full amount stretching back to January 2007 totalled more than $75,000. Esteves was found to have issued each payment.
LeFeuvre noted Esteves does not have a prior record and is considered a low risk to re-offend. The court was also told that she admitted her guilt at the earliest opportunity when police questioned her.
However, LeFeuvre also said such a crime results in a loss of public confidence given Esteves’ position of trust within the federal government. She was responsible for processing EI claims and issuing payments.
“She had a special position there, and she used that position to enrich herself,” he said.
Candace Summers discussed her client’s background, mentioning the common-law partner’s gambling addiction, but stressed that Esteves made her own choice to defraud the EI system and was responsible for it.
Judge James Walsh gave Esteves the opportunity to address the courtroom. Esteves stood up and apologized for her actions.
“I’m sorry that this happened,” she said.
Summers also offered an apology on her client’s behalf to a former co-worker of Esteves whose access code was used during the commission of her crimes. That reportedly led to the co-worker being briefly considered as a suspect.
Esteves, who is not currently in custody, will return to court for sentencing on Oct. 3.