House arrest recommended for ex-Service Canada employee

Andrew Robinson
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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.

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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.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Service Canada

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Recent comments

  • Mike
    September 26, 2013 - 12:44

    Don't forget about the gold-plated pensions she will receive for being a thief. Oh, what a wonderful world!

  • Mr. Dole
    September 26, 2013 - 09:31

    House arrest would be a good time to really concentrate on online poker. Anyone who can fool the feds for that long must be good at hold'em. I got a fine when I "frauded EI, they also took back $2000 of my tax return of $1400 in 2011because I made more than 52000. Crazy, job hunt, partime work, cash work, baby on the way, so i frauded money from them the next year, as o worked parttime then they questioned me and i admitted it, just like this special person, but i got a fine. If she was a claimant, she could be fined $75000 on top of paying it back. House arrest. They are afraid to put her in jail, she might write a book about EI, instead of playing pokerstars. We are all stars in the fraud show. Anyone wanna caste a stone my way?

  • What?
    September 26, 2013 - 08:40

    How can she pay back 75,526 ?? It's a waste of time to fine her. This will be kept on the books for years and then written off. It's like the drivers with 20,000 in fines. They can't pay!!!

  • Marg
    September 26, 2013 - 08:36

    Of course she admitted her guilt when the police questioned her, as well as apologized, only because she got caught. However, she must not have felt much guilt over the long period of time she was stealing taxpayers' money. Most of us would give anything to have the privilege of obtaining such a great job.