Robert Riley Saunders expressed remorse this week for the fraud he perpetrated during his time working for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“I messed up. I am ashamed and I am embarrassed and I have great remorse for what I did,” Saunders told the court on Wednesday when confronted with some of the creative writing he did to squeeze funds from the ministry on behalf of youth in his care.
He suggested, for not the first time, that the scams he perpetuated through falsified paperwork and fictional circumstances were not “sophisticated,” but were “sloppy” and should have been detected long before they were.
“I can’t speak to the three supervisors who signed off on things,” he said.
In his final months working as a social worker — a job he gained through submitting fraudulent qualifications — Saunders had nine youth in his care who had an independent living agreement made in their names, though they had other living situations created.
It’s believed that he managed to fraudulently squeeze $180,000 from the province in his last year of work, through those agreements and other scams.
While Saunders has had moments of contrition throughout his week of testimony, he’s also proven to be testy at times.
On Wednesday, when Crown Counsel Heather Magnin questioned him about one case, and the vouchers given to a youth in his care, Saunders offered a riposte that stood out from the rest of his testimony.
“Hmm, that was nice of me,” he said.
Backtracking, Saunders then said that the process of the sentencing hearing has been hard on him.
“This process is very stressful and there’s a lot of information to digest in my time sitting over (in the witness area)” he said.
“I’m trying my best to pay attention, there might be a few statements through the different four statements that I don’t recall. I don’t remember each and every statement that came out of their mouths.”
Last year, Saunders pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000, breach of trust, and using a forged document.
He originally faced 13 criminal charges, including 10 counts of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust.
Dozens of civil cases in which Saunders has been accused of defrauding children in ministry care reached a conclusion last year with a multimillion-dollar settlement with the B.C. government.
The lawsuits claimed he would open joint bank accounts with the youth in his care, and then withdraw the government money for his own use.
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 and drug addiction.