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Seniors fraud case results in 12-month sentence

Steven Clement was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for a fraud case targeting his now-deceased father.
Diane MacLaurin
Thunder Bay Police Service Det. Const. Diane MacLaurin is a crimes against seniors investigator. She says it's rare for cases of financial crime against seniors to result in a conviction. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – A 60-year-old man who pleaded guilty to defrauding his late father of more than $91,000 will spend the next year behind bars, an outcome a police investigator says is rare for cases of financial abuse against seniors.

Earlier this week Superior Court Justice Danial Newton sentenced Steven Clement to 12 months imprisonment on one count of fraud over $5,000, a crime that a family friend said resulted in 89-year-old Fernand Clement dying “an emotionally crippled man.”

“How did I feel then? Terrible, terrible. It’s an awful feeling that your son did that to you,” Fernand Clement said in an interview that is part of a Victims’ Voices video produced by the Community Elder Abuse Prevention Committee.

According to the admitted facts of the case, Clement was granted power of attorney in December 2011 when his 83-year-old father was hospitalized. Shortly afterwards, nearly $69,000 was transferred from the father’s accounts to pay off a joint line of credit Clement had with his wife. A total of $91,530 was taken from his accounts.

The father became aware there was a problem when his supportive housing rent checks bounced. He and a friend went to the bank and discovered his accounts were not only empty but overdrawn.

Newton noted while the father was never evicted or threatened with eviction “he was severely stressed and saddened by the realization that his son had taken all his savings” and he had to live the rest of his life “on a tight budget.”

Fernand Clement died in February 2016.

Steven Clement had told the court he was intending to invest his father’s money to increase the return.

“It is beyond question that this fraud had a significant impact on Fernand Clement given his age, health and financial circumstances,” the judge wrote in his reasons for sentence.

“I do not accept Mr. Clement’s assertion that he was intending to make money for his father. The fact that the bulk of the funds diverted went to pay off Mr. Clement’s joint line of credit demonstrates the falseness of that assertion.”

Crown prosecutor Gordon Fillmore sought an 18-month sentence while defence lawyer Johnny De Bakker requested a conditional sentence. As of last month, Clement had paid about $35,000 in restitution to his father's estate.

Det. Const. Diane MacLaurin, a Thunder Bay Police Service crimes against seniors investigator, said it’s rare for cases to make their way to court, let alone result in a conviction.

Some of the challenges for the victims to engage with law enforcement and the criminal justice system contribute to what can make them vulnerable targets.

“You’re dealing with people that are an aging population. Often they are medically or cognitively declined,” MacLaurin said.

“Most of the time the accused is someone known to the victim. It’s their sons, daughters, grandchildren, caregivers. It’s a very hard dynamic for someone to come to the police first of all and then come to court to want to prosecute against someone that is doing the caring for them.”

MacLaurin said these type of probes are often lengthy with the investigator needing time to build trust from the victims.

The investigations can involve subpoenaing bank and other financial records and can require intensive analysis, she added.

“It’s often hard to separate some of the transactions that may be legal or valid transactions from the transactions where someone has taken the transactions where someone has taken the person’s debit card or taken their banking information,” MacLaurin said.

MacLaurin said fraud cases against seniors, particularly ones perpetrated by family members, in Thunder Bay are “common” though in many cases the people just want advice on how to handle the situation.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to me there’s some kind of crisis. In this case, it was the fact that his rent hadn’t been paid but it’s often that hydro bills aren’t paid or there’s something else or a family member maybe comes into town and looks at the banking documents and sees there’s large transactions that don’t make any sense,” MacLaurin said.

“There are people that investigate this. If there’s enough information and the victim’s willing to go forward and all the dynamics are in place, we will prosecute.”

About the Author: Matt Vis

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