Robert Riley Saunders, a fraudulent former guardian, continued to argue during a sentencing hearing in a Kelowna court that he had done his job “very well”.
Saunders’ cross-examination continued on March 25, the fifth day of his Gardiner hearing, after he had already plead guilty to three of the 13 counts he was charged with while working as a social worker with the Department of Children and Family Development.
The hearing takes place, despite the guilty plea, because Saunders does not give in to all the charges against him. Saunders disagrees that there was a risk posed to young people by his actions, that there was a real and material risk posed to specific young people and that young people suffered financial deprivation by not receiving the funds to which they were entitled.
During his cross-examination, Saunders said he was a “really good” social worker and his colleagues asked him for help when they needed it.
Asked about his records and note-taking, Saunders said “apparently I didn’t keep very good notes.”
He also said the information recorded in the youth plans was indeed fabricated to cover up the fraud.
“Anything I would write in a care plan suggesting a youngster is doing well would have been fabricated as some sort of distraction for anyone reading,” Saunders said.
Despite his efforts to cover up his fraud, a colleague was acting as his supervisor for 45 minutes when she discovered his fraudulent documents.
While on the stand as a witness, Saunders said he used the MCFD system and framework to create documents to embezzle funds. He admits to forging signatures and physically cutting and pasting signatures on documents to be photocopied.
“I found ways to embezzle funds regardless of their living circumstances,” Saunders said, alleging he didn’t retain young people’s care for financial gain.
He said he was familiar with the system and knew the amount of funds he could steal without raising any red flags.
“It’s a fake,” Saunders said repeatedly when shown checks and forms he filled out as part of his scheme.
“I embezzled money. I would release them and sign them under the youngster’s name,” Saunders said.
Saunders stole up to $120,000 a year in funds intended for the high-risk, mostly Indigenous youth he cared for from 2011 to 2017.
Saunders faces ten counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust and one count of issuing a false document.
Saunders is accused of using a fake college degree to get a job as a social worker. According to the Crown, he claimed to have a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Manitoba despite not having a degree in social work.
City of Kelowna Aboriginal Child Welfare