A former chief financial officer at Skwah First Nation has been given a two-year conditional sentence order after stealing nearly $300,000 from the band.
Danilo Tolentino Guanzon received the verdict at the Chilliwack Law Courts Wednesday (Sept. 20) from B.C. Provincial Judge Dannielle Dunn. The 56-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000 and one of theft over $5,000.
According to Crown prosecutor Cindy Kemble, who presented the facts of the case, Guanzon committed his crimes between April 2017 and February 2019. While employed by Skwah First Nation he stole funds in various ways. He had the authority to write cheques and while they needed to be signed by a member of the band council, Kemble said they were generally approved without question.
On Feb. 8, 2019 a council member saw a cheque in the amount of $10,500 made out to someone who turned out to be Guanzon’s ex-wife. He admitted to writing the cheque and was suspended right away. The band hired KPMG Chilliwack to do a financial audit of the entire time Guanzon worked for the band.
They identified $294,978.92 in fraudulent transactions. Guanzon wrote $42,025 in cheques to his ex-wife. He wrote $6,525.21 in unauthorized cheques to himself and created a company called MDT that cashed more cheques adding up to $229,600.
There were smaller issues like Guanzon claiming reimbursement for travel and means that weren’t authorized, and he gave $1,805 to a girlfriend who had her own company selling homecare/beauty products.
Through the lawyer, Guanzon told the court he stole the money because of greed, opportunity and a desire to keep people in his life. He burned through what he stole and his lawyer said he currently lives on Canada Pension Plan disability benefits for income.
Guanzon shuffled into the courtroom using a walker, and his lawyer told the court he has been overwhelmed by health problems in the years since he was caught. According to a note from his family doctor, he has been left nearly blind by complications of diabetes and suffers from severe neuropathy in his arms and legs.
Though he is still relatively young, he currently lives in an assisted living facility in Burnaby, where he’s fallen 10 times in the last six months. His lawyer argued that he isn’t physically capable of serving a sentence in an actual jail. The lawyer also argued that his physical ailments make it very unlikely he’d be able to re-offend even if he wanted to.
Nevertheless, conditions are in place as part of the joint submission between Crown and defence to keep him from repeating his crimes. Guanzon is mandated to reveal the conditions of his sentence to anyone providing an employment or volunteer position where he may be trusted with an individual or organization’s money or property.
He can’t take a job that requires him to enter anyone’s private residence without permission from his CSO supervisor.
Dunn ordered Guanzon to apologize to Skwah First Nation, and also put a restitution order in place. If he ever comes across a significant amount of money, he’s expected to pay the band back, but Crown indicated that it’s unlikely the band will ever get any of its money back.
“What the band does with their money is, there are food programs and daycare programs and education programs,” Crown lawyer Kemble said. “This money has come from the people who need it the most.”
Guanzon will face two years of probation after his CSO is over.