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Disgraced former B.C. social worker to be sentenced

Robert Riley Saunders. Facebook

A former Ministry of Children and Family Development social worker accused of stealing from dozens of youth in his care is being sentenced this week.

Robert Riley Saunders was in court Monday for the start of his contested sentencing hearing, which is also known as a Gardiner hearing. It’s held when the parties cannot agree on all of the facts relating to the charge.

The process entails witnesses called to weigh in on contested details of the charge, a judge’s ruling on that evidence, sentencing submissions, and then a sentencing decision.  The hearing was originally scheduled for five days, and is expected to carry on through the week.

Read more: B.C. First Nations group relieved after former B.C. social worker arrested, charged

Click to play video: 'Former Kelowna social worker pleads guilty to fraud' Former Kelowna social worker pleads guilty to fraud
Former Kelowna social worker pleads guilty to fraud – Sep 27, 2021

While this prolongs the sentencing process, Saunders did expedite things last year when he pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and using a forged document.

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He originally faced 13 criminal charges, including 10 counts of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust by a public officer but when guilty pleas are entered in advance of a trial, Crown tends to reduce charges facing the accused.

Dozens of civil cases in which Saunders was accused of defrauding children in ministry, however, reached a conclusion last year. A multi-million-dollar settlement for Saunders’ victims was reached with the B.C. government and approved by Justice Alan Ross of the Supreme Court of B.C. on Oct. 23, 2020.

Read more: Former B.C. social worker charged with defrauding teens in care pleads guilty

The civil suits claimed Saunders would open joint bank accounts with the youth in his care, and then withdraw government money meant to be used for their care for his own use.

According to Monday’s court appearance, Saunders allegedly stole up to $500,000 over the years, and many youths in his care claim his actions left them homeless and susceptible to exploitation of varying kinds as well as drug addiction.

Saunders was arrested and charged in December 2020 but has been out on bail since.

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