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Kelowna fraudulent social worker used ministry to misappropriate funds: Court

Robert Riley Saunders stole $120,000 in 2017 alone

Robert Riley Saunders, a fraudulent former guardianship worker, continued to maintain during a sentencing hearing in a Kelowna court that he did his job “very well.”

Saunders’ cross-examination continued on March 25, the fifth day of his Gardiner hearing, after already pleading guilty to three of the 13 charges he was been indicted for while working as a social worker with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker pleads guilty to defrauding youth in his care

The hearing is taking place, despite the guilty plea, because Saunders does not concede to all of the charges he is facing. Saunders does not agree that there was risk posed to youth by his actions, that there was actual and material risk posed to specific youth, and that the youth experienced financial deprivation by not receiving the funds they were entitled to.

While being cross-examined, Saunders said that he was a “very good” social worker and that his colleagues came to him for help when they needed assistance.

When asked about his case files and note-taking, Saunders said “apparently I did not keep very good notes.”

He also said that information recorded in youth plans were effectively fabricated to cover up the fraud.

“Anything that I would write in a plan of care suggesting that a youth is doing well would have been manufactured as somewhat of a distraction to anybody reading,” said Saunders.

Despite his efforts to conceal his fraud, a coworker was acting as his supervisor for 45 minutes when she uncovered his fraudulent documents.

While on the stand as a witness, Saunders said he used the system and framework at the MCFD to create documents to misappropriate funds. He admits to forging signatures and physically cutting and taping signatures onto documents to photocopy.

“I found ways to misappropriate funds regardless of their living situation,” said Saunders, alleging that he did not withhold care from youth for financial gain.

He said that he was familiar with the system and knew the amount of funds he could steal without raising red flags.

READ MORE: Kelowna ex-social worker claims youth he defrauded were not entitled to funds

“It is forgery,” said Saunders repeatedly when shown cheques and forms that he had filled out as part of his scheme.

“I was misappropriating money. I was releasing and signing them under the youth’s name, ” said Saunders.

Saunders stole up to $120,000 per year in funds that were intended for the high-risk and primarily Indigenous youth in his care from 2011 until 2017.

Saunders is facing ten counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust and one count of uttering a forged document.

Saunders is accused of using a forged university diploma to get a job as a social worker. According to the Crown, he claimed to have a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba despite having no social work credentials.


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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