Halifax businessman facing sentencing after allegedly underpaying foreign workers
Lawyers for a Halifax businessman who has admitted submitting false records on the employment of foreign workers questioned incorrect figures previously used by the Crown, as a sentencing hearing continued Monday.
Hector Mantolino pleaded guilty last December to misrepresentation under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which prohibit providing “false or misleading information” to the federal government.
The operator of Mantolino Property Services Ltd. was originally charged in June 2013 with 56 counts of immigration fraud following a Canada Border Services Agency investigation but those charges were rolled into a single indictment.
Mantolino was accused by the federal Crown of advising 28 foreign workers to provide misleading and untruthful statements on their work permit applications between July 2010 and April 2013.
He was alleged to have counselled the workers to lie about their wages if they wanted to stay in Canada – with some saying in court documents they had stated they would receive a Canadian wage but were paid as little as $3.13 per hour after various deductions.
Several Filipino temporary workers whom Mantolino allegedly underpaid were in Nova Scotia Supreme Court for the hearing on Monday.
Blair MacDonald, a federal investigator, was cross examined by defence counsel regarding corrections he made to a spreadsheet compiled by the border agency describing amounts workers were paid by Mantolino.
MacDonald agreed there had been some errors in the spreadsheet, though he added the errors in the lengthy document were unintentional and have been corrected as Mantolino provided additional information.
“Some of the (figures) went up, and some went down,” he said, regarding the discrepancies regarding the wages for the 28 workers involved.
In one instance the difference between what was provided to Ottawa describing the worker’s salary and what was actually disbursed over three years, went from an original difference in salary of $119,134 to a difference of about $115,988, court heard.
Asked by defence lawyer Ian Hutchison why this occurred, the federal agent said the CBSA initially accepted the worker’s assertion that he was owed expenses incurred on a credit card, but after hearing from Mantolino last week those amounts were dropped.
“In the overall scope … I didn’t find it that significant, so I removed it,” MacDonald said, adding there were some errors in the total number of hours worked and noted in the spreadsheets.
Outside of court, federal prosecutor Tim McLaughlin said the current sentencing hearing is focused on the precise amount that was submitted to Ottawa regarding the workers’ pay, and the amounts they actually received.
“We’re covering (testimony) about the amount of money that was potentially not paid to the employees … based on the materials that were seized by investigators and they reviewed without the assistance of the accused,” said McLaughlin.
By the end of the day Monday, the defence and Crown seemed to be moving closer to an agreement on the figures.
In a telephone interview after court ended, McLaughlin said he’d met with the defence and feels there is potential for an agreement for a final figure on the difference between what Mantolino submitted to federal authorities and what he paid the workers.
© 2018 The Canadian Press