Terminally ill man fined for defrauding CRA

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

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on October 20, 2012
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.
— Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

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