Hand pleads guilty on all counts

Rob Antle
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Businessman admits to bribery and fraud in House spending scandal

For years, John William Hand was the mysterious private figure behind a very public scandal.

That air of mystery evaporated Friday.

The St. John's businessman - linked to three companies the auditor general reported as receiving millions in questionable payments from the legislature - has never publicly talked about the matter.

That didn't change yesterday.

John Hand leaves provincial court after pleading guilty to defrauding provincial taxpayers and bribing a government official as part of an illicit scheme targeting the legislature. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

For years, John William Hand was the mysterious private figure behind a very public scandal.

That air of mystery evaporated Friday.

The St. John's businessman - linked to three companies the auditor general reported as receiving millions in questionable payments from the legislature - has never publicly talked about the matter.

That didn't change yesterday.

But finally - four years after the auditor general's findings detonated a major political scandal in the province - Hand showed his face in relation to the controversial payments.

Through his lawyer, he pleaded guilty at provincial court to all of the charges facing him.

Hand, 69, admitted to defrauding provincial taxpayers and bribing a government official as part of an illicit scheme targeting the legislature.

The St. John's businessman was facing charges of fraud over $5,000, frauds on the government and breach of probation.

According to police, Hand is owner/operator of Zodiac Agencies, and is associated with Cedar Scents International and JAS Enterprises.

In a report issued nearly four years ago, Auditor General John Noseworthy questioned the legitimacy of nearly $2.7 million in payments made to those three companies for "low-value novelty items such as lapel pins, fridge magnets and key chains."

A subsequent Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigation resulted in charges being laid against Hand last fall.

Defence lawyer Bob Simmonds entered the guilty pleas on his client's behalf Friday morning.

Hand - wearing a beige jacket, a grandfatherly blue sweater and shirt, and peering out from behind thick eyeglasses - did not speak in court.

He quickly exited after his appearance in courtroom No. 7, and said nothing to waiting reporters.

This was not Hand's first experience with the criminal justice system - or with stealing money from taxpayers.

In 2001, he admitted to defrauding the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) of more than $75,000, by submitting false invoices to the federal agency.

Another company - Intercraft Inc., which eventually became known as Trepassey Manufacturing Co. Ltd. - got cash from ACOA in the early 1990s. Hand was the company's president.

The money was targeted at helping fishermen and plant workers displaced by the cod moratorium.

A November 1994 story published in The Express weekly newspaper indicated that 25 new jobs would be created by Hand's Trepassey plant. The facility was set up to produce pen and pencil holders, plaques, and cedar boxes and gift items Hand had previously sold for an American company.

"Their boxes sold so well that they couldn't keep up with the orders," Hand is quoted as saying in that 1994 story. "We had trouble getting orders filled during peak seasons, so we decided we could do the work here and obtained manufacturing rights to do so."

But around the same time, Hand was submitting false invoices to ACOA for equipment he did not receive.

Hand later admitted to instead redirecting some of the equipment elsewhere. He also invoiced ACOA for five assembly tables he never bought.

He received a conditional sentence of 7-1/2 months, along with two years probation, for that fraud against the feds.

Hand's guilty pleas Friday are an admission that he was actually on probation for bilking one level of government when he pursued a scheme to defraud another.

The House of Assembly spending scandal exploded with the release of reports by the auditor general in 2006.

While Noseworthy put the total amount of questionable payments to the three companies linked to Hand at $2.7 million, it's unclear how much money Hand managed to steal from provincial taxpayers.

Those facts will be released publicly on Aug. 27, at his sentencing hearing.

Lawyers for both sides declined comment until then.

Four politicians and a former bureaucrat have all previously been convicted and served jail time on corruption charges related to the legislative spending scandal.

Hand is the sixth person charged in conjunction with the affair.

No other charges are pending in relation to the police investigation of the legislature, dubbed Operation Radius.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Cedar Scents International, JAS Enterprises Intercraft Inc. Trepassey Manufacturing Co.

Geographic location: St. John's, Trepassey

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Recent comments

  • grant
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Hey folks, surely nobody believes mr hand recieved all the money mentioned above. thousands of dollars had to be given to people responsable for him getting it. the people at ACOA, people in the provincal government i would guess got a few unmarked envolpes with some green paper inside. now it will never be known who or how much but you can bet it did, thats how government and busness workes and its been happening since they printed money.

  • Bob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Pleading guilty means we don't get to see the dirty behind the scenes deals that kept this thing going.
    Why didn't the judge put Hand away when he fessed-up? When he does get his due hopefully it won't be at the Bihops Falls hotel. But I fear the bar has been set.

  • Observer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Mike from NL I know Grant is correct. Private information can be got from government agencies here in St. John's with the passing of white envelopes with green paper inside. I know it for a fact, someone close bragged to me about it, and it infuriates me.

  • Bear
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Is the court system that busy that they have to wait until August 27 for the sentencing hearing ???? Talk about speedy justice, this is ongoing for 4 years now !

  • Margaret
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Dirty, rotten, low-down, conniving, scheming liar and crook.
    His family must be just as bad, as well as anyone else involved.
    This absolutely infuriates me. He'll get off with a little slap on the wrist, just like the rest of them.
    His lawyer is just as big a crook. I can't stomach to listen to him, let alone look at him. Oh my heavens, where's their conscience? They just don't have one, or even know the meaning of the word. What in the world is wrong with the Judges who preside over these cases? Their hands can't be tied because of Rules. If an ordinary citizen was the offender, we'd sure get the book thrown at us.
    However, they will find out a lot about conscience on the other side of life.

  • grant
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Mike. first i never said everyone in the public service is a crook. have you heard of a mister murphy taking cash from politicans for favours. have you heard of the politicans convicted of fraud and kick backs. where were you living? get over it mike the investigation is long over and the few of a big bunch was convicted, and you can bet, unless your really out of it that there is many more.

  • Lee
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Mike, get real; don't be so blind.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    The ultimate in irony in all of this mess is Mr.Hand is old enough that he is eligible receive his Canada Pension and Old Age Pension.

    I sincerely hope that the federal government is clawing back any monies owed to ACOA.

    Somehow I think they probably are not ?

  • Kelly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Greedy. Arrogant. Disgraceful. He should be ashamed of himself but probably isn't.

  • Stop the Racket
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Now that we are on the topic of lies coverups and corruption can anyone please tell me how John Risley was allowed to be head of the board of directors of FPI his major competitor and help organize its eventual sale where he made millions of dollars on that sale because he was a share holder. To me thats like the President of General Motors being on the board of Ford Motor Company. A DEFINATE CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Another question. Why did Danny Williams stay very quietly in the background and do or say nothing while his close friend John Risley manouvered himself into this position? Birds of a feather stick together I think the saying goes and in this case it rings true. It seems Danny Williams has many of you convinced he loves all of you and everything he does is all for you. Well check out the details surrounding the sale of FPI and the Risley, Williams connection and then tell me where Dannys proirity really is. Oh by the way also check out some of Dannys friends who live in or near the area in Florida where his condo is located. You may be very surprised or not at all surprised. You decide for yourself.

  • Mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Grant from NL is posting his opinion but in my opinion it's a load of crap!!! I work in the NL public service have been proud to do so for 25 yrs. I have never seen or heard of any unmarked envelopes with some green paper inside . If he or anyone else has information to warrant an investigation, bring it to the police or the Public Service Commission. They will deal with it. If you don't, keep your stupid opinion to yourself.

  • Whatever Bud
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    The worst of the lot. Throw him to the LIONS!!!

  • baieboy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Margaret: your right about John, but there are some very good people in Johns family. Dont drag them into it. Johns fair game. As for Simmons. Its known he a good lawyer for guilty clients. If you need Simmons your guilty.

  • Stephen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    take it and drown it in St.Johns,harbor,Sleazy goddamm crook,and throw Ed Byrne and the rest of this motley crew in with him.They got away with too much.An ordinary citizen would be hung out to dry.Maybe throw in the judge and lawyer too!How do these people sleep at night.Step up Danny and show some balls and smithe these scum down.ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

  • What're Ya At ?
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Hey John, don't tell anybody you went to St. Bon's.

  • grant
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Hey folks, surely nobody believes mr hand recieved all the money mentioned above. thousands of dollars had to be given to people responsable for him getting it. the people at ACOA, people in the provincal government i would guess got a few unmarked envolpes with some green paper inside. now it will never be known who or how much but you can bet it did, thats how government and busness workes and its been happening since they printed money.

  • Bob
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Pleading guilty means we don't get to see the dirty behind the scenes deals that kept this thing going.
    Why didn't the judge put Hand away when he fessed-up? When he does get his due hopefully it won't be at the Bihops Falls hotel. But I fear the bar has been set.

  • Observer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Mike from NL I know Grant is correct. Private information can be got from government agencies here in St. John's with the passing of white envelopes with green paper inside. I know it for a fact, someone close bragged to me about it, and it infuriates me.

  • Bear
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Is the court system that busy that they have to wait until August 27 for the sentencing hearing ???? Talk about speedy justice, this is ongoing for 4 years now !

  • Margaret
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Dirty, rotten, low-down, conniving, scheming liar and crook.
    His family must be just as bad, as well as anyone else involved.
    This absolutely infuriates me. He'll get off with a little slap on the wrist, just like the rest of them.
    His lawyer is just as big a crook. I can't stomach to listen to him, let alone look at him. Oh my heavens, where's their conscience? They just don't have one, or even know the meaning of the word. What in the world is wrong with the Judges who preside over these cases? Their hands can't be tied because of Rules. If an ordinary citizen was the offender, we'd sure get the book thrown at us.
    However, they will find out a lot about conscience on the other side of life.

  • grant
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Mike. first i never said everyone in the public service is a crook. have you heard of a mister murphy taking cash from politicans for favours. have you heard of the politicans convicted of fraud and kick backs. where were you living? get over it mike the investigation is long over and the few of a big bunch was convicted, and you can bet, unless your really out of it that there is many more.

  • Lee
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Mike, get real; don't be so blind.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    The ultimate in irony in all of this mess is Mr.Hand is old enough that he is eligible receive his Canada Pension and Old Age Pension.

    I sincerely hope that the federal government is clawing back any monies owed to ACOA.

    Somehow I think they probably are not ?

  • Kelly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Greedy. Arrogant. Disgraceful. He should be ashamed of himself but probably isn't.

  • Stop the Racket
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Now that we are on the topic of lies coverups and corruption can anyone please tell me how John Risley was allowed to be head of the board of directors of FPI his major competitor and help organize its eventual sale where he made millions of dollars on that sale because he was a share holder. To me thats like the President of General Motors being on the board of Ford Motor Company. A DEFINATE CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Another question. Why did Danny Williams stay very quietly in the background and do or say nothing while his close friend John Risley manouvered himself into this position? Birds of a feather stick together I think the saying goes and in this case it rings true. It seems Danny Williams has many of you convinced he loves all of you and everything he does is all for you. Well check out the details surrounding the sale of FPI and the Risley, Williams connection and then tell me where Dannys proirity really is. Oh by the way also check out some of Dannys friends who live in or near the area in Florida where his condo is located. You may be very surprised or not at all surprised. You decide for yourself.

  • Mike
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Grant from NL is posting his opinion but in my opinion it's a load of crap!!! I work in the NL public service have been proud to do so for 25 yrs. I have never seen or heard of any unmarked envelopes with some green paper inside . If he or anyone else has information to warrant an investigation, bring it to the police or the Public Service Commission. They will deal with it. If you don't, keep your stupid opinion to yourself.

  • Whatever Bud
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    The worst of the lot. Throw him to the LIONS!!!

  • baieboy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Margaret: your right about John, but there are some very good people in Johns family. Dont drag them into it. Johns fair game. As for Simmons. Its known he a good lawyer for guilty clients. If you need Simmons your guilty.

  • Stephen
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    take it and drown it in St.Johns,harbor,Sleazy goddamm crook,and throw Ed Byrne and the rest of this motley crew in with him.They got away with too much.An ordinary citizen would be hung out to dry.Maybe throw in the judge and lawyer too!How do these people sleep at night.Step up Danny and show some balls and smithe these scum down.ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

  • What're Ya At ?
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Hey John, don't tell anybody you went to St. Bon's.