$1,000,000 taken from employer - Gmerek found guilty in fraud trial
June 8, 2018, 5:37 pm
Gregor Gmerek was found guilty of fraud and forgery in Yorkton Court of Queen’s Bench Friday.
Justice Janice McMurtry found that Gmerek had defrauded his former employer, Prairie Livestock, of approximately $1,000,000 by various means, including issuing cheques to himself, depositing them, then voiding them on the company’s accounting system and issuing second cheques with the same cheque number. Deposit slips were also falsified, Justice McMurtry found. Funds were deposited into Gmerek’s bank account and used to pay his wife’s credit card bills, she found.
She found Gmerek also used company funds to purchase a vehicle, and used company funds to speculate in foreign exchange markets, taking the profits for himself.
As McMurtry went through the various pieces of evidence presented at trial, she said she found Gmerek’s explanations for most of them not credible.
“I refer to these transactions to illustrate the various ways Mr. Gmerek made false entries into Genesis (Prairie’s accounting system) with the purpose of paying himself or his family with company money. I am satisfied Mr. Gmerek was not entitled to any of these payments,” she said.
“Mr. Gmerek is facing charges of fraud, theft, forgery, and uttering forged documents. I accept Mr. Gmerek defrauded the company of approximately $1 million. This deprived the company of approximately $1 million. Thus he also committed theft. To commit theft and fraud, Mr. Gmerek forged the signatures of Mr. Sinclair and others on company cheques. He then used those forged cheques to pay himself company money to which he was not entitled. I am satisfied the Crown has proved each of these charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A sentencing hearing is set for July 9, once the prosecutor and defence lawyer have time to formulate arguments on sentencing.
After the guilty verdict, the Crown prosecutor asked that Gmerek be immediately taken into custody, arguing that Gmerek has contacts overseas and may try to flee justice before sentencing, since the crime he committed often results in a sentence of five to 14 years. “The gravity of the offence . . . fraud over $5,000 carries with it a sentence of a maximum of 14 years. Frauds of $5,000 or more do have a minimum sentence,” he says.
“This is the type of fraud that is unfortunately all too common. It’s a person in a position of trust who is able to basically use their expert knowledge to defraud business people who know how to do their work but have to hire people to run their financial affairs in businesses that are becoming more and more complex.”
The defence argued that Gmerek has surrendered his passport and has been checking in with RCMP regularly, and therefore is not a likely flight risk. “He has been on these conditions for going on five and a half years and he has not breached his conditions. He has more connection to Saskatchewan than anywhere else. His family is here, his wife is here, his daughter is here. He doesn’t pose a threat to the public,” the defence lawyer argued.
Justice McMurtry decided that as Gmerek is unlikely to get into a position of trust in which he can defraud an employer again before sentencing, and because he has never breached his conditions, he was not taken into custody, but will appear in court July 9 for sentencing.
Prairie Livestock owner Kirk Sinclair was happy with the conviction. “I’m happy it’s over with,” he said immediately after the verdict. “Obviously the judge saw through the defence, and the overwhelming evidence spoke for itself. I’ve learned that our court system is slow, but it works. I was pretty confident there would be a conviction in the end, but of course the Crown always advises you on the side of caution. In this case, though, you can’t dispute the evidence. I’ve learned to never second guess my hunches, because it turned out I was right. I won’t second guess myself on something like that again. You can never do enough due diligence and spot checks. It’s good to have it over with now. It has taken a lot of our time for the last five years. It’s nice to be through with it.”
The fraud was discovered by the Sinclair, and charges were laid against Gmerek in December of 2012.