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Civil Litigation, Criminal

Lawyers held to a higher legal standard: Shekter

It’s not surprising that a disbarred lawyer was sentenced to a significant jail term for his role in a $1.5-million small-business-loan fraud, Toronto litigator Richard Shekter tells Law Times.

“Lawyers, like police officers, hold special positions in society,” Shekter, partner with Shekter Dychtenberg LLP, further tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“They are pledged to apply and uphold the law. As a result, transgressions are often dealt with more harshly by the courts."

In addition to seven years in jail, Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies ordered the lawyer to pay almost $800,000 in combined restitution and fines in lieu of forfeiture, says Law Times.

According to Spies’ April 12 decision, the 62-year-old lawyer and a co-accused were convicted of five counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of money laundering. They were also found guilty of “committing the frauds for the benefit of or at the direction of a criminal organization they formed with a third person who earlier pleaded guilty,” says the article.

According to the decision, the three obtained fraudulent loans under the federal government’s Canada Small Business Financing Program. The trial focused on 16 loans made between 2007 and 2010.

Spies also determined that the lawyer “took a leading role in laundering the proceeds of the fraud as signing officer for a number of construction companies that provided borrowers with fraudulent invoices to present to the lenders for payment,” says the article.

Shekter, who wasn’t involved in the case and comments generally, says the facts alleged by the Crown “were found to be particularly aggravating because the accused lawyer committed a number of frauds before and during the time that he was appealing a Law Society penalty revoking his license to practice law. That penalty had been imposed after it was found that he had committed acts of professional misconduct.”

He says the judge rejected the convicted lawyer’s “pleas for leniency — along with claims that he was impecunious — and imposed a significant period of incarceration totalling seven years, along with a $300,000 restitution order and a fine in lieu of forfeiture of more than $480,000.”

Shekter tells Law Times that fines in lieu of forfeiture are relatively new to the Criminal Code. 

“But it’s a very powerful tool that is now requested by the Crown with increasing frequency,” he says.

Shekter says it was also interesting that the lawyer argued — albeit unsuccessfully — that a lengthy period of incarceration would have a significant impact on his 12-year-old son.

“Justice Spies rejected the submission finding that many sentences impact significantly on family members,” he says.

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