Tears began to roll down Susan Collins’ cheeks Tuesday when she learned she would spend 16 months in prison for her part in welfare fraud
Collins, wife of now Fort William First Nations chief Peter Collins, and a number of people from the courtroom huddled together and cried after a judge read her sentence at Superior Court of Justice in Thunder Bay. The prison term is followed by a probation of two years. She is also expected to deal with her gambling addiction during that probation period.
She is also to pay a restitution of $95,000.
Crown attorneys asked for a two-year prison term with probation and restitution of $96,289.51. Defence attorney David Dubinsky asked for a conditional sentence with restitution.
Collins pleaded guilty to a count of fraud on April 21. Collins was one of the first people to be involved in the fraud scheme and the court heard that she did not stop until she was caught.
Collins, 51, had been involved in a fraud scheme that involved the Ontario Works program on the Fort William First Nation. Her involvement ranged from creating fake applications and benefiting from the cheques by either cashing them herself or acting as a trustee.
Collins had six fake names, which she used to cash 67 fraudulent cheques. The amount attributed to Collins was estimated at about $68,500.
The total amount of money involved in the scheme was said to be more than $1.28 million. It resulted in the Fort William First Nation’s bank accounts to have an overdraft of about $17,000.
Collins has lived in the Fort William First Nations all her life. She witnessed her father abusing her mother, Justice G.P. Smith said before delivering the sentence.
The loss of her father’s status card made her an outsider in her community. It wasn’t until her marriage to Peter Collins that she felt she was welcomed back into the community.
A mother of four, the court heard that she had no prior criminal record.
"It is clear that Collins did not have an easy upbringing," Smith said. "However, the responsibility for what she has done must be hers."
Collins was taken to the Thunder Bay Youth Correctional Facility where she will serve her 16 months.