Terminally ill man fined for defrauding CRA

Rosie Mullaley
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Judge agrees jail time is not necessary for Harold J. Farr

Harold J. Farr leaves the courtroom in provincial court in St. John's after he was sentenced to pay more than $50,000 in fines Friday.

A terminally ill man will not go to jail for defrauding the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Instead, Harold J. Farr was ordered to pay back the more than $50,000 he's admitted to taking while employed as a supervisor at CRA.

The 53-year-old - who is dying of Huntington's disease - was sentenced Friday in provincial court in St. John's.

He was found guilty in June of 29 charges of defrauding CRA of more than $50,000.

Twenty-eight of those related to unlawfully making false entries in the records or accounts of taxpayers, under the Income Tax Act, and one count is for breach of trust by an officer, under the Criminal Code of Canada.

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.

He was diagnosed in 1994 with Huntington's, 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.

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Hugh Mirolo, who treated Farr, had testified that while Farr may have known he was committing a crime, he had no control to stop himself.

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

Nonetheless, because of Farr's health issues and unique circumstances, Crown prosecutor Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu and defence lawyer Robert Regular concurred that a suspended sentence should be imposed.

Flynn agreed.

Draghici-Vasilescu suggested Farr also be ordered to pay restitution - a repayment to the victim, CRA - since Farr's financial situation is not dire.

However, Regular said another payment would only cause the family more despair.

Due to Farr's circumstances and future prospects, the judge said a restitution order was not necessary.

The fine - repayment of $50,415.23 - was the mandatory minimum sentence under the Income Tax Act. Farr has already paid back about $17,000 and has four years to repay the rest.

At the end of proceedings, Draghici-Vasilescu told reporters he wasn't surprised at the judge's decision.

"I can't say it was unexpected," he said, "but I felt strongly that he should've been ordered to pay restitution."

rgillingham@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Canada Revenue Agency

Geographic location: St. John's, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Shannon
    October 22, 2012 - 21:36

    I'd like to first say that I know this man personally. He is by far a selfish mean person. He is a loving and caring person and showed me a true friendship. He goes out of his for people, he is a good teacher and enjoys volunteering his time. He was sick while I knew him and didn't even burden me with it until I was leaving the province. He then told me and I thought he was a brave person. He never used that sickness defence for anything. I never even knew and was with him on a weekly basis. Don't judge someone on what you read in the newspaper please. He messed up and I'm sure he is dealing with the consequences especially by living in the small city of St. John's

  • Ashamed
    October 21, 2012 - 17:13

    As a CRA employee, I feel sick about what this man did. Integrity is one of the main principles of CRA and the vast majority of employees keep this in mind in every action they take in the run of a day. It would take a lot of planning and forethought to do what he did and it would take more than a lapse in judgment.

  • Dee
    October 20, 2012 - 20:08

    I agree Sheri he certainly knew what he was doing,my opinion is that the family should of also been charged.The only thing he is sorry for,he got caught.

    • John A
      October 21, 2012 - 18:33

      Yeah, lock up the family cat while you're at it. You can't be serious. There was no evidence implicating the family.

  • Anon
    October 20, 2012 - 17:15

    Taxes are merely a burden passed onto peasants to pay back interest to the 13th branch of the Federal Reserve (Bank of Canada) on the money they gave us created out of thin air. The real crooks are laughing at us in their private jets.

  • sheri
    October 20, 2012 - 16:44

    He wasn't too ill to make the adjustments. And credit to the right people--His family...he knew what he was doing..what a crock!..

  • Lorraine Dragon
    October 20, 2012 - 14:07

    Terminally ill??? Could that not apply to everyone on this earth? No-one gets out of life alive-Does that make it right to committ crimes? This man DID NOT seek medical advice until after he was charged. What an insult that he would use his medical condition to get away with this crime or having to serve time in jail. This type of "man" would never do well in jail, so his shady lawyers and our weak judicial system make it easy for him!!!! SHAME on everyone involved including his family.

    • John A
      October 21, 2012 - 18:29

      Take a little time to learn something about Huntington's disease. Symptoms include behavioural changes and psychosis. This is one of the truly awful ways to die. It can include dementia, loss of the ability to care for yourself and loss of the ability to interact with others. If the court wished to be nasty, just to appeal to people in the cheap seats, they could sentence him to house arrest. He is getting that anyway. Jail time will just cost us a fortune when he needs medical care. Do you know how much it costs to pay overtime to TWO prison guards to supervise someone in the hospital? That will be at least 168 hours per week, times two, time and a half at a rate of at least thirty dollars an hour. This goes up on holidays and on the second day of rest. One month in hospital will cost more than he stole. If there are no guards available, two police officers get the overtime. They need TWO because they have to allow guards to take breaks and visit the used coffee and doughnut disposal room. You are so caught up in the amount taken from 'The Crown' that you want many many times that amount thrown after it. I hope that you are pleased with the amount of suffering this man faces. If not, you can take satisfaction from the pain it will cause for his wife and children. Apparently they deserve it, according to the other comments here. All of us bleeding heart liberals are just overjoyed that he 'got away with it'. We shall all gloat about it at the next conspiracy meeting.

  • David
    October 20, 2012 - 09:30

    The fact that he is terminally ill now has no bearing on the intent and seflishness of the crime. We're all eventually going to die of something...is that now the perfect defense for crime? Should all people diagnosed with something terrible start planning their Christmas shoplifting now?