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Former Exit Realty on the Rock owner stole, defrauded and misappropriated more than half a million dollars total
Anne Squires didn’t act on impulse or in a moment of weakness when she stole from her real estate firm, misappropriated funds from the business’s trust account and defrauded a loan company, all to the tune of more than half a million dollars, a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge said Thursday in St. John’s.
Squires’ crimes amounted to ongoing, planned acts of deception, he said.
“Ms. Squires made a conscious decision to engage in ongoing criminal activity,” Justice Robert Stack said, minutes before sentencing the former Exit Realty on the Rock owner to two years less a day in prison.
Squires, 61, sat in the prisoner’s dock and listened intently as Stack delivered his verdict, bringing to an end a criminal case that has been before the court for almost four years.
Squires pleaded guilty to charges of stealing from Exit Realty on the Rock; defrauding Access EasyFunds Ltd., a company that gives pay advances to real estate agents for sales before the deals close; knowingly causing Exit Realty and Access EasyFunds to acted upon documents she had forged as if they were genuine; and converting trust money for an unauthorized use.
She committed the offences over a two-year period, starting in July 2014 and ending in February 2016, when the province pulled her company’s real estate licence and it went into receivership. Squires was charged 10 months later.
In an agreed statement of facts presented to the court, Squires admitted creating fake sales agreements — in some cases for properties that didn’t even exist, and in other cases with forged signatures, using them to obtain money from Access EasyFunds. She also admitted to submitted fake letters of approval from a mortgage company of which she was the sole director.
The money acquired from the loan company was deposited into the operating account of Exit Realty on the Rock, while money was also moved out of the company’s trust account into a general account to ensure cheques didn’t bounce, Stack said Thursday, explaining Squires had “devised a scheme” to commit the fraud.
In total, there were 33 fraudulent transactions and $522,386 advanced to Squires to which she was not entitled.
At the end of July, Squires appeared by video at her sentencing hearing, where she delivered a lengthy address to the court. It was meant to be an apology, Stack said Thursday, but was instead an effort to shift the blame for her crimes and the downfall of Exit Realty on the Rock.
Stack pointed out Squires had told the author of her pre-sentence report that although she knew what she was doing was wrong, she was desperate.
“In reality, Ms. Squires’ current circumstance is the result of hubris and greed coupled with a willingness to act criminally in order to meet her financial obligations,” the judge said.
Squires lowered her eyes and nodded.
Nevertheless, Stack said, he is satisfied Squires is genuinely remorseful, particularly for the trouble she caused the real estate agents working for her.
Squires’ crimes carry a mandatory jail sentence. Her lawyer, Randy Piercey, had argued for an eight- to 10-month prison term, while prosecutor Arnold Hussey had argued for a term of three years.
Stack sentenced Squires to two years less a day behind bars, having considered factors on both sides of the argument. On one hand, he said, Squires has no prior criminal record, has repaid $50,000 of the stolen money, has a supportive family, has prospects for the future and was assessed to be at a very low risk to reoffend, he explained. She also saved court resources and witnesses from having to testify at her scheduled two-month jury trial.
On the other hand, Squires’ crimes are very serious, Stack said, and involved a significant amount of money and degree of planning over a considerable length of time.
“The Crown submits the real estate industry relies heavily on trust and ethical conduct which extends to clients, coworkers, other realtors and financial institutions. Persons in the position of Ms. Squires are responsible for large sums of other people’s money,” Stack said. “The sentence imposed must reflect these principles.”
Two years less a day would serve as denunciation and deterrence, but would also allow the potential for a fresh start for Squires, who has moved on to a career in the hospitality industry in rural Newfoundland, the judge said.
Squires’ future plans include the opening of a shelter in the area for people experiencing homelessness or addictions.
Stack asked Squires to stand as he formally presented her sentence, ordering her not only to serve jail time but to pay back the rest of the stolen money to Access EasyFunds and have no contact with former Exit Realty on the Rock employees or clients.
With that, sheriffs cuffed Squires’ wrists behind her back and escorted her from the courtroom.