Former Gananoque, Leeds and Thousand Islands fire chief pleads guilty to fraud, theft, forgery
The former fire chief of Gananoque and Leeds and Thousand Islands pleaded guilty to defrauding the municipalities he was overseeing.
On Monday, Gerry Bennett pleaded guilty to four counts in defrauding the municipalities of over $65,000. He also pleaded guilty to one count of theft, one count of breach of trust and one count of forgery.
Mayor of Leeds and Thousand Islands, Corinna Smith-Gatcke, was in court on Monday to deliver her victim impact statement.
Smith-Gatcke, who has lived in the area her whole life, spoke as a resident and as a mayor, saying Bennett’s actions are still being felt in the community.
“Our community trusts the fire department. We trust them to be there. You, Gerry Bennett, have caused distrust,” Smith-Gatcke wrote in her statement.
Smith-Gatcke says Bennett will have to pay the township over $15,000 in restitution as part of his guilty plea.
She called that amount “inconsequential” in comparison to what was actually stolen from taxpayers.
It’s unclear how much Bennett will have to repay the Town of Gananoque.
In 2016, Gerry Bennett was let go after an internal investigation revealed discrepancies in invoices and billing practices.
At that time, former mayor of Gananoque Erika Demchuk told Global News Bennett was fired “with cause.”
A forensic audit was conducted at the fire department — and town staff decided it deserved a more thorough police investigation.
It took two years for OPP to investigate, but in December 2018, 25 charges were laid against Bennett — everything from fraud to forgery of documents, theft and breach of trust.
Bennett’s plea deal allowed him to plead guilty to only seven of the 25 charges.
The case will be back in court on Friday to set a date for the sentencing.
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