Anderson lawyer pleads for leniency in fraud case

YARMOUTH — Frank Anderson, former head of the South West Shore Development Authority, will have to wait another couple of weeks to learn his fate.

The 65-year-old pleaded guilty in August to one count of fraud related to his dealings with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and was to have been sentenced Wednesday, but Judge Jim Burrill said he would do so Nov. 13 in Yarmouth.

Anderson ran the authority, which the province shut down in 2010.

That year, the development agency was the subject of an investigation and a highly critical report by the provincial ombudsman.

An audit report was also critical of its operations.

Last spring, Anderson elected a trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court before a judge without a jury.

But before a preliminary hearing could begin last summer, he pleaded guilty to a charge that between August 2009 and April 2010 he knowingly caused ACOA to act upon a forged document — an applicant’s request-for-payment form — submitted as if it were genuine.

Wednesday in Yarmouth provincial court, Crown attorney Jim Clarke said Anderson clearly breached a position of trust.

The development agency was described as being in trouble.

A money-losing property it became owner of — a former military station near Shelburne — was a money pit that was dragging it down.

ACOA would not release money to the struggling entity if suppliers and contractors working for it had not been paid, said Clarke, so Anderson said creditors had been paid when that was not the case.

Anderson, speaking from the witness stand, said what he did was wrong.
“I did what I did, and I shouldn’t have done it.”

Anderson has said he wanted to keep the agency afloat.

He said he was hoping government would come through with some cash, but that didn’t happen.

“I should never have signed those forms” that told the federal agency creditors had been paid, Anderson said.

But there does not seem to have been any personal gain or benefit realized by Anderson, said Clarke, who added that Anderson has no criminal record.
“Not even a speeding ticket,” he said.

As well, some have come to Anderson’s defence.

“It doesn’t appear that there’s any social disgrace,” said Clarke, noting that 29 people wrote letters of support for Anderson.

Five of the 29 were intended to be Crown witnesses, called to testify against Anderson.

The letters from a doctor, lawyers, a former mayor, a restaurant owner, property developers and others will form part of the public record, said Burrill, and may be read by anyone.

Restitution was not addressed in detail, and not one victim wished to file a victim impact statement, said Clarke.

Many unsecured creditors were owed more than a combined $2million by the authority at the time of its demise, and the province of Nova Scotia, as a secured creditor, was owed $475,000.

An out-of-court settlement was reached in October 2013 after one creditor, Garian Construction Ltd., brought suit against local municipalities who once helped run the regional development agency.

It was noted in court that Garian Construction was owed $344,508.01.

The Crown said it wanted a 12-month conditional sentence order consisting of four months house arrest for Anderson, four months under curfew and four months on probation-like conditions.

Defence lawyer Donald Presse said Anderson did not do anything for personal gain.

“He did it because of his love for his community, I would submit,” said Presse.

He asked for a conditional discharge, arguing that a custodial sentence was not necessary.

“If anyone deserves lenient treatment from the court, it’s … Mr. Anderson,” said Presse.

Click here to see original article written by Brian Medel, Chronicle Herald, Yarmouth Bureau

November 13, 2014