Colleen Esteves was quick to take responsibility for issuing tens of thousands of dollars of Employment Insurance payments to her former boyfriend, admitting her guilt as soon as police began questioning her.
On Thursday, Judge James Walsh ordered Esteves to pay the federal government back $75,526 and sentenced the 52-year-old woman to 18 months’ house arrest and two years’ probation.
That total corresponds to the value of 78 payments issued by the former Service Canada employee from January 2007 to August 2010. Each payment was deposited into a bank account Esteves shared with her common-law partner.
It was her former boyfriend who initially told authorities about the payments, stating he received a bill that said he had been paid more than $57,000 in EI benefits. The man had never been an EI claimant.
Esteves pleaded guilty to charges of fraud over $1,000 and breach of trust by a public official.
Walsh said Esteves’ crimes represented a serious breach of trust and were planned and pre-meditated. He did however note she accepted full responsibility for her crimes and was a first-time offender considered a low risk to re-offend.
Esteves worked for the federal government for 20 years from 1990-2010. She was responsible for processing EI claims and issuing payments.
During the reading of the agreed statement of facts, the court was told about her boyfriend’s gambling addiction. Her lawyer, Candace Summers, also stressed that it was Esteves’ decision to defraud the EI system.
The 18-month conditional sentence and two years’ probation were in keeping with the joint submission for sentencing made by Summers and Crown prosecutor Philip LeFeuvre.
Walsh took time Thursday to commend both lawyers for agreeing to an appropriate submission.
Walsh ordered an 18-month conditional sentence for the charge of fraud over $1,000 and a 12-month conditional sentence to serve concurrently for breach of trust by a public official.