THUNDER BAY – The former co-manager of Kashechewan First Nation is headed behind bars for a “large-scale fraud” that stole money from the community’s school breakfast program and instead spent it on two houses and a pair of luxury vehicles.
Giuseppe Crupi, who previously pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud, was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday at the Thunder Bay Courthouse.
The 51-year-old had been originally charged with three counts of fraud, three counts of forging documents, laundering proceeds of crime and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. All other charges have been withdrawn.
Federal prosecutor Mark Seebaran said Crupi had been hired by Kashechewan to serve as a co-manager, tasked with improving the community’s financial situation but instead “saw an opportunity” with the breakfast program where money wasn’t being spent as intended.
Over the course of five years beginning in 2007 and ending in 2012, the federal government provided the community with $1.3 million to operate a breakfast program for 400 children, with only $100,000 of that amount going towards the initiative.
Of the remaining $1.2 million, Crupi redirected $656,000 to other companies where he had access to bank accounts. He took $335,000 for personal use, which Seebaran told the court included the building and renovation of two houses and buying two BMW vehicles.
Crupi had been arrested and charged in September 2016 following an RCMP investigation that determined he had been submitting falsified funding applications to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
Seebaran described Crupi of perpetrating “multi-layered fraud,” which included the use of forged documents.
The sentence was the result of a joint recommendation from Seebaran and defence lawyer David Bruzzese, which was accepted by Ontario Court Justice Dino DiGiuseppe.
“This is a breach of trust. Mr. Crupi was in a position of trust to the First Nation,” DiGiuseppe said, adding the community was financially vulnerable and had relied upon what they believed to be his expertise and honesty.
Bruzzese said the community had been receiving funding for the breakfast program that had been redirected to other uses prior to Crupi’s involvement.
While the lawyer acknowledged Crupi did steal $335,000, Bruzzese stressed Kashechewan had spent the other half of the $1.2 million for other purposes.
The sentence also included a restitution order of more than $650,000 to Kashechewan, which included a fine of $335,000 payable within 10 years of his release.
Crupi, who had no previous criminal record, apologized and vowed to meet his legal obligations following his release from a federal penitentiary.
“I am ashamed of all my actions,” Crupi told the court.
Crupi will also be subject to an order barring him from seeking, obtaining or continuing employment or volunteering in any capacity where he would hold a position of financial authority for any First Nations, Inuit or Metis organization for a period of five years.