A convicted fraudster whom the Crown called "an admitted liar" and "an admitted thief" has delayed his sentencing to consider backing out of his guilty plea.
Dale Sutherland pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in September, admitting he defrauded two businesses out of $1 million between 2013 and 2017 in order to help support his first-class cruising habit.
Although dates were set for a sentencing hearing in October, prosecutor Aaron Rankin agreed to the defence application to return in January so that Sutherland could "get his affairs in order."
'Abuse of the justice system'
Instead, on the date he should have been sentenced, Sutherland fired his lawyer and notified the court his new counsel is considering making an application to vacate his guilty plea.
"Mr. Sutherland's conduct is an abuse of the justice system," Rankin said in opposing the adjournment.
"He is an admitted liar, he is an admitted thief."
Rankin noted that it is not uncommon for fraudsters "to fight to the end to delay the inevitable."
When he pleaded guilty in September, Sutherland's then-lawyer Cory Wilson had his client sign a document saying he was doing so voluntarily and that he understood the consequences.
'Likely a lie'
The judge at the time also reviewed that document with Sutherland to ensure he was confident in his plea.
But now, through his new lawyer, Ian McKay, Sutherland indicated to Justice Jim Eamon that there had been "a misunderstanding about a joint sentence."
Sutherland claimed Thursday that he believed he would get a lighter sentence than what was to be proposed by Crown and defence.
"This is likely a lie given the character of the person asserting it," said Rankin.
Judge won't allow lengthy delay
But Justice Eamon allowed the adjournment so that McKay could assess the case and consider making the application to withdraw Sutherland's plea.
"There are provisions in the law to permit applications to set aside pleas," said Eamon.
"This is not going to result in a lengthy delay, I can control that."
Eamon set a deadline of Feb. 23 for the defence to file an application.
The matter will be back in court March 18 for either a sentencing hearing or to argue the defence application.
Sutherland worked as an accountant and controller for the Kore Group and Kore Onsite, companies run by Brad LaForge and Kent Werner. The two men "considered Sutherland a friend and trusted him," according to the agreed statement of facts presented in court as part of his guilty plea.
The 68-year-old took annual vacations and "was quite open about the fact that he would spend a large part of this time taking first-class cruises via the Princess Cruise Line."
Sutherland's own cruise record shows that over the four-year period he was embezzling from the Kore companies, he took 13 cruises, spending 28 weeks on the water.
Owners lost money
According to the agreed statement of facts, over a four-year period, Sutherland was "fraudulently diverting significant additional money to himself from the Kore companies."
Sutherland stole most of the money by setting up an account that received a biweekly payroll transfer.
The investigation found Sutherland paid himself at least $850,000 through that account.
Sutherland also had the owners sign cheques they believed would be used to pay corporate creditors. But instead, he made them payable to himself while recording corresponding entries in the accounting books for legitimate businesses, according to the statement of facts.
Both owners took out mortgages against their personal assets during the time Sutherland was defrauding them to keep the companies viable.