Ailing man who defrauded CRA found guilty on all charges

Rosie Mullaley
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Harold J. Farr is seen in provincial court in St. John's today. He was found guilty on numerous charges of defrauding Canada Revenue Agency. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A man with a terminal illness who defrauded Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) an amount of $50,000 has been found guilty of all 29 charges against him.

In provincial court in St. John’s today, Harold J. Farr was found guilty of 28 counts of unlawfully making false entries in the records or accounts of taxpayers, under the Income Tax Act, and one count of breach of trust by an officer, under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The 52-year-old St. John’s man is dying of Huntington’s disease and, over a four-year period, stole $50,415.23 from CRA while he was employed there.

Between November 2004 and July 2008, while working in a supervisory position, he reset employees’ passwords to gain access to the CRA’s computer systems. Once he gained access, he falsified information for financial gain.

He made changes to income tax returns for himself, his wife, his father and his niece by increasing information about RRSP contributions, reports for personal income, net business income, medical expenses, spousal claims, charitable donations and child care expenses.

Farr has never denied what he did.

His defence centred around the claim that his disease drove him to do it.

Farr was diagnosed in 1994 with Huntington’s disease — an incurable, hereditary neurological disorder which causes cells in a specific part of the brain to deteriorate.

Symptoms include obsessive behaviour, aggressiveness and uncontrollable impulses — affecting a person’s abilities to think and reason.

Farr didn’t begin receiving treatment until October 2010.

During his sentencing hearing last month, lawyers argued whether Section 16 of the Criminal Code of Canada should or shouldn’t apply to Farr.

Section 16 states that an offender is not criminally responsible for committing a crime if he suffers from a mental disorder that renders him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or knowing it was wrong.

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Hugh Mirolo, who has been treating Farr since October 2010, had testified that while Farr may have known he was committing a crime, he had no control to stop himself.

Mirolo said before he was treated, Farr had been showing symptoms of aggressiveness — challenging a car salesman three times his size to a fight — and impulsiveness — buying several dogs and hundreds of curling irons.

Mirolo explained to the court, at the time, Farr’s judgment and ability to make reasonable decisions were impaired by the disease.

But Judge Colin Flynn said he found it difficult to believe that Farr’s obsession was such that it extended over four years.

“I have difficulty concluding that in view of the deliberate nature of this enterprise and its sustained length that Mr. Farr was operating under some irresistible compulsion which propelled him to commit these offences without being able to resist doing so, while in other areas of his life, things were more normal,” the judge stated.

Flynn said the defence failed to prove that his actions were so affected by the disease that he was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of his acts.

“Even accepting that he felt compulsed to do these things, he knew what he was doing and the consequences of doing them …,” Flynn said. “He understood the nature of what he was doing and the consequences of what he was doing.”

Flynn said he wasn’t satisfied that Section 16 applied in this case.

“I have no doubt that Mr. Farr’s illness spurred him on to do things that he might not normally do,” the judge said.

“However, in that sense, Mr. Farr is no different from the hypothetical individual suffering from some other mental disorder who continually calls his ex-girlfriend because he obsesses about her. He, too, cannot stop himself, but he appreciates what he is doing and the consequences of it.”

Given the fact that Farr is dying, Halifax Crown prosecutor Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu told the judge that he and defence lawyer Robert Regular will be recommending a suspended sentence for Farr.

However, Flynn pointed out that a suspended sentence is not available under the Income Tax Act.

After a short review of the legislation, it was agreed that the mandatory minimum sentence under the Act is a fine — the total amount of the money taken.

The sentence under the Criminal Code charge is usually jail time, but it would be unlikely given Farr’s circumstance.

A sentencing hearing has been set for Sept. 7.

Organizations: Canada Revenue Agency

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • That is his sentence
    June 13, 2012 - 09:09

    Huntington disease (HD) is an inherited brain disorder that causes cells in specific parts of the brain to die. The symptoms of HD include: • emotional turmoil (depression, apathy, obsessive behaviour) • mental loss (inability to focus, think and recall, make decisions) • physical deterioration (weight loss, involuntary movements, diminished coordination, inability to walk, talk, swallow) The disease leads to complete incapacitation and, eventually, death. There are no treatments that will slow down or stop this disease. That is his sentence! Give the man a break... he has a family for gods sake!

  • Concerned
    June 13, 2012 - 06:16

    Mr. Farr's sentence IS Huntington's Disease - HORRIBLE FATE!

  • HD Person
    June 13, 2012 - 04:02

    I have Huntington's Disease and have lost several members of my family to this conditions including my Dad so have so have a lot of experience over many years. It is farily comon for people who have been law abiding all theiir lives to break the law and show unaccepable behaviour. This is due to the area of the brain that is destroyed. This is taken from the Huntington's Advocacy Centre web site - After thoroughly reading dozens of Criminal Complaints against those with HD and also the results of their Neuropsychological Exams, there is no doubt in my mind now that their questionable behaviors and actions such as lying, cheating, stealing, deception, poor judgment, loss of consequential thinking, sexual promiscuity, and embezzling were ALL caused by HD-Affected behavior and symptoms such as: •Impaired judgment, reasoning and the ability to know when something is wrong •Lack of self-control (disinhibition or loss of inhibitions) •Loss of forward or consequential thinking •Impulsiveness •Loss of short-term memory

  • Gerry
    June 13, 2012 - 00:27

    So besides the rest of you physician wann-bes; a Neuropsychiatrist, who most likely started out as a general physician, then specialized to a pychiatrist, who then further specialized to a NEUROpsychiatrist (I make that roughly a MINIMUN of 10 years university & medical training) states that Farr may have known he was committing a crime, he had no control to stop himself....but the judge, who is-was a lawyer, to me, does it sound like he may be basically saying that he doesn't beleive the medical physician - psychiatist?....of course, I could be wrong,

  • Dawn
    June 12, 2012 - 22:46

    He is a thief - plain and simple and should bear the consequences of his actions. Sick of these sympathy pleas!

  • Ivan Tucker
    June 12, 2012 - 19:46

    First of all,i want people to know,that their are many levels,of mental disorder.Luckily for me i didn't steal,maybe because my disorder,was not as severe. I found out that i had depression,when i was fifty three.One year to the day,that i had an operation for bowl cancer,& did my first round of chemos,i became too weak to surpress my condition.From a certain age on,i can't be certain when,i adopted a personality.that let me live a reasonably active life,plus a fairly productive one.But,from my early teens,i had a feeling,that i had a internal problem,but could'nt seek advice or help,because i had no way of explaining,exactly what i felt. My mood swings were so profound,i always looked for a fight.As a goaltender,from the age of eight,i wanted to fight,the players from the other team all the time.As a midget,i led the league in penalty minutes.Most often they were friends,& i was suspended,until i got my temper under control.Having worked with a physcologist for seven years,first i was told that my heavy depression,started as early as four or five yrs of age.My lack of self esteem,caused my mood swings,that as i aged,became more probematic.Fighting released a lot of anguish. I've said enough for now,but i hope most of you people,will understand,how demoralizing,a mental illness is.Because you are able to do what this gentleman did,shows that a mental disorder,does'nt make you stupid,but it does make your thought process terribly confusing. For example.i was married to the most wonderful women,for thirty two years,of which,on a day to day basis,i was unreadable.My kids also suffered,as often i could not make sense,of everyday problems,plus i had to be right about everything.As i got worse,i lost everything,i had ever wanted in my life. An example,because of my NL.physciatrist,who once said to me when i was suicidal,that he understood how i felt.My remark,to him was/to his remark,would be the same as me saying to a women,i know what you go through when having a baby.-------------JUST SAYING.Ivan Tucker.

  • Whaddaya At ?
    June 12, 2012 - 17:52

    Hey, Joseph McGrath, Judge Roy Bean's got nuthin' on you. You want the courts to ensure Mr. Farr gets a couple of months in jail and a criminal record ' to restrict his travel movements ' ?. ILMAO at that. Why did you stop short of saying he should be fitted with an ankle bracelet ?. It's really big of you to say that Mr. Farr's medical treatment should be continued, cause, God forbid, we wouldn't want him to die of his terminal illness if there's the possibility of a miracle that might make him better so we can seize his assets. Not to worry though, you can always hold a seance after he passes. With all that lead in your veins, you should have been an auditor.

  • Jamie
    June 12, 2012 - 16:01

    Pretty well every MHA should be put under the same microscope. What they get away with is legalized theft.

  • Another Mans Shoes
    June 12, 2012 - 15:03

    Unless you were in this man's shoes then you have no idea what you would or wouldn't of done. Easy to sit back and throw him under the bus. The CRA cheat and steal from people and its been proven. Not only this man but others and just this last year in fact with the fisherman licenses. Its great to know as well that some people working at the CRA are not only thieves but also cant even spell, so glad they're all getting our tax dollars at no less than 28 bucks an hour....consider me DISGUSTED.

    • Amazed
      June 12, 2012 - 17:05

      There is no "walking anothers shoes in this case. The facts of this case is clear, very clear. Have you noticed that Farr was diagnosed in 1994 defrauded the government between November 2004 to November 2008 BUT did not seek treatment until 2012 AFTER he was fired for fraud. This sentence is an insult to all those suffering from Huntingtons and other neurological disorders who have never broken the law. So, I guess all of those, like Farr, living with a "death sentence" get out there and take what you want. When caught, blame it on your medical condition. Amazing how Farr was capable for accessing staff passwords to file false claims and then cash the refund cheque. I see his disability did not come into play then. ONLY WHEN HE WAS CAUGHT! ! ! ! ! !

    • It is what it is
      June 12, 2012 - 20:14

      "....would or wouldn'd of done", is not correct english. Lack of punctuation, and terrible misuse of grammar. Misspelling of words is only minor. How do you spell long term criminal? History of long term deception and manipulation.

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 12, 2012 - 14:13

    I do not wish sickness on anyone but when it is used as an excuse to committ a signifant theft then punishment must be handed out.I bet he is getting CPP disability benefits,earned sick leave from CRA and no doubt a disability pension as well.The courts should give him a couple of months in jail and ensure that he gets a criminal record to restrict his travel movements abroad.I would ensure that his required medical treatment is continued and if per chance a miracle occurs and he becomes better then seize his assets to replay his theft of money.

    June 12, 2012 - 12:05

    I am a long time employee with CRA and is also living with a terminal disorder. However, I have never ever thought to commit fraud against my employer nor the taxpayers. This has nothing to do with your medical/mental condition. It just shows you a person was raised and what principals were instilled in you at an early age. Harry, you shold be ashamed!!!! Where is the JUSTICE system? Harry Farr deserves jail time. He broke the law; he knew how to work CRA's system to his benefit. As for Harry buying dogs, well, he does breed and show dogs. Please remember folks there are honest, caring and helpful employees at CRA. I AM ONE OF THEM.

    • Downtown Doug
      June 12, 2012 - 15:07

      I have to agree. An illness with impulse issues are just that and after the impulse has passed there should be moments of regret... not planning for the next session. If it happened once then I would be more inclined to say he did it, then was afraid to come forward. He obviousy had the ability to plan his theft so I am more inclined to say he deserves some jail time.

  • David
    June 12, 2012 - 12:04

    I have a fatal illness too...I'm very, very sick of paying taxes, especially when they can be wasted on the costs of dealing with this kind of BS. Terminally ill or not, this guy is a thief, and the fact that he uses the tax-funded health care system makes it more heinous. But...if he was stealing the money as a political act to get a portiuon of his own, previous income tax payments back to pay for private, timely health care for himself, I'd supprt him. That would be completely legitimate.