Case against former Peel CAS employee who allegedly defrauded the organization heads to trial; charges against co-accused withdrawn
The ongoing saga of the cases against two former Peel Children’s Aid Society (CAS) employees charged in a “purchase and reimbursement scheme”, allegedly defrauding the organization of more than a quarter million dollars, is finally seeing some progress a year after the charges were first brought forward, with the charges against one of the accused in the case being withdrawn and the other heading to trial in the new year.
An internal investigation conducted by Peel CAS, which uses taxpayer funds to care for some of the region’s most vulnerable residents, in early 2022 found Marino Cader, previously responsible for the taxpayer-funded organization’s accounts, allegedly abused his former position as director of finance. In a criminal investigation conducted by Peel Police following skepticism from the organization, Andre Paul, a former maintenance coordinator with Peel CAS, was charged alongside Cader.
After almost a year of courtroom delays, due to issue surrounding disclosure evidence, the charges against Paul were withdrawn on Monday at the request of the Crown Attorney. A trial hearing for Cader has now been scheduled for the end of January. The decision comes over a year after the two former employees were charged in 2022.
“The scope of the involvement by Mr. Paul was alleged to be significantly less than Mr. Cader, who held a leadership role and was a superior to Mr. Paul,” a spokesperson for the Crown’s Office said on Monday. “Critically, Mr. Paul is provided restitution in full to the Children’s Aid Society for the portion of the fraud he was alleged to be involved in. In light of that restitution and his relative role, the Crown is prepared to withdraw the charge against him only as there is no public interest in continuing the prosecution.”
The arrests were the climax of nearly two years of controversy and strife inside the walls of the organization as alarming allegations that surfaced in a report commissioned by the Province found the organization's workplace environment was “seriously troubled.” The organization was in turmoil after the third-party investigation revealed financial mismanagement of taxpayer funds — a recurring theme at the problematic organization, which serves as one of the region’s most critical social safety nets — and disturbing examples of a deeply rooted dysfunctional culture within the organization.
After being placed on leave in February 2022, Cader was fired in May of the same year following an internal investigation prompted by staff complaints of discriminatory behaviour and other abuse by senior management that had sparked a provincial review of the organization in 2021. The probe revealed evidence of financial mismanagement and in November 2022 Cader and Paul were arrested and charged following a criminal investigation by Peel Police at the request of the organization.
Investigators believe the pair worked together to defraud the CAS of more than $250,000 as part of a “purchase and reimbursement scheme” — one of the most common forms of criminal activity against businesses. In these schemes, an employee typically claims expenses that were never in fact incurred, were for personal use, or have been inflated beyond what was actually spent. Cader has been charged with seven counts of fraud over $5,000 and five counts of uttering a false document. Paul was charged with three counts of uttering a false document. The charges against Paul have since been dropped as of Monday. The allegations against Cader have not been proven in court.
In response to the fraud charges against him, Cader filed his own lawsuit against the organization alleging he was wrongfully dismissed in May 2022 as “a scapegoat” and that his firing was punishment for being a whistleblower after coming forward with allegations of financial abuse by the organization’s embattled former CEO Rav Bains, who was no longer with the organization in the final months of 2022, discreetly leaving Peel CAS after being placed on administrative leave by the organization in 2021.
Cader alleges he was a “scapegoat” after coming forward with allegations against former CEO Rav Bains (above), who discreetly left the organization in December 2022 after being placed on leave the year prior.
The lawsuit filed by the former director of finance revealed alarming allegations of wrongdoing, financial mismanagement and potential criminal activity inside the organization responsible for providing proper governance and overseeing the care of the region’s most vulnerable young people. Pointing the finger at Bains, Cader, previously responsible for the taxpayer-funded organization’s accounts, alleged he “experienced bullying, intimidation and pressure to engage in unethical conduct” at the hands of the formerly scandal-plagued CEO.
A statement of defence filed by Peel CAS in response to Cader’s claim has raised serious questions about the organization’s leadership, a reality that was highlighted in nearly three years of investigations by The Pointer and the review conducted by the Province.
Investigations from The Pointer and the provincial probe previously exposed Bains’ conduct and the questionable use of public funds, which found the former CEO misrepresented expenses charged to Peel CAS, a publicly funded organization, when he travelled to the U.S. to attend business seminars. The provincial review found his travel violated expense rules, which prohibited out-of-country flights unless employees paid for them on their own. Bains also used a subordinate’s work credit card to pay for some of his travel charges. The board determined Bains did not violate rules, defending the former head of the organization and refusing to provide transparency around the circumstances of Bains’ administrative leave and eventual departure a year later.
Cader has alleged that it was Bains’ financial mismanagement and “waste of taxpayer money” that resulted in the organization purchasing “at least $1,300,000 in gift cards.” He claims the former CEO instructed him not to confirm or record the financial requests in writing to avoid a paper trail. The statement of claim alleges Bains secretly purchased the gift cards so unused taxpayer funds would not have to be returned to the provincial Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, which governs Children’s Aid Societies. The allegations in Cader’s statement of claim have not been proven in court.
“The Agency has made a scapegoat of Mr. Cader for bringing to light the former CEO Mr. Bains’ financial improprieties, failure to appease the former CEO and failure to cooperate with the acting CEOs and other Agency’s employees, in covering up fraud, embezzlement and financial improprieties at the Agency,” the civil claim by Cader alleges.
As a result of his termination, Cader is seeking $325,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal, including loss of benefits during the 18-month reasonable notice period and loss of pension benefit contributions. He is also seeking $150,000 in bad faith and aggravated damages, $50,000 for breach of the Ontario Human Rights Code, $200,000 for punitive damages and $400,000 in defamation damages from Peel CAS.
In a statement of defence filed by Peel CAS, the organization has disputed Cader’s claims, noting the allegations made in his lawsuit against Bains are “irrelevant,” to the allegations against him, despite it being public knowledge the former CEO faced two years of scrutiny after the provincial probe exposed widespread mismanagement, a toxic workplace culture and internal financial irregularitie. The organization claims Cader was the one who “engaged in wrongful acts,” including engaging “in serious financial misconduct and conflict of interest while working for Peel CAS and breached the trust that was put in him to protect resources and funds earmarked for vulnerable children and families.”
“Peel CAS not only had just cause to terminate his employment, but had no other choice but to do so once the extent of his misconduct was discovered,” the statement of defence claims.
Peel CAS has denied all of Cader’s allegations, including that the former director of finance was wrongfully dismissed.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
The organization denies it wrongfully dismissed Cader and includes numerous allegations of financial wrongdoing on his behalf. The most damning allegation claims the former employee misappropriated approximately $1.38 million of the organization's funds through a variety of methods, including submitting fictitious receipts, falsifying online invoices, requesting reimbursements for purchases he returned or cancelled and improperly distributing gift cards. The statement of defence claims that when questioned by the organization, Cader blamed Bains, stating he had been directed by Bains to purchase the gift cards to utilize excess funds received from the Ministry.
Cader is the focus of the organization’s statement of defence with little mention of Paul, who was co-accused in the case prior to his charges being withdrawn. Peel CAS previously claimed in its defence that between May 2020 and October 2021, Paul, an employee who reported indirectly to Cader, purchased $140,000 worth of Costco gift cards using company funds, which “were then wrongfully taken and or used by Paul and/or Cader,” according to the claim. The organization’s claim also noted that between January 2018 and March 2022, Paul fraudulently received reimbursement from Peel CAS of $92,887 for falsified Costco invoices “created by and/or at the instruction of Cader.”
Responding to Cader’s claims that he was “a scapegoat,” the organization has also stated that throughout the investigation, administrative leave and termination of Cader’s employment, Peel CAS “conducted itself with the utmost good faith.” Peel CAS claims “Cader’s termination had nothing to do with finding a ‘scapegoat’ or with his having hired counsel, and everything to do with Cader’s wrongful, fraudulent activities.”
Cader’s lawyer has previously declined to comment on the statement of defence and the allegations made in it, stating in a previous email to The Pointer that “as the matter is before the courts it would not be appropriate.”
Cader will make his next courtroom appearance on December 12 to deal with further disclosure issues before appearing again on January 22 when the case will go to trial.
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