Investigation into former Kelowna social worker still open

Victims left wondering

More than 15 months since the alleged thefts of former Kelowna social worker Robert Riley Saunders became public in a series of lawsuits launched by his victims, they are still asking when he will be held accountable.

Kelowna RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy told Castanet last week the detachment's fraud section is still investigating the file. 

“This is an extremely large and complex file and our investigators are diligently working to ensure that every avenue has been thoroughly investigated prior to forwarding our findings to the BC Prosecution Service for charge considerations,” Noseworthy said.

Once the file is forwarded to Crown counsel, it could take several more months for charge approval due to the complexity of the case.

One of the lawyers representing the alleged victims, Michael Patterson, says they have been unable to serve Saunders with any of the numerous civil lawsuits that name him and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“We’ve given up on hearing from him. We have no idea where he is located and have had no contact with him whatsoever,” Patterson said, explaining they have been dealing directly with the province on the lawsuits.

“Our clients constantly ask us,” he continued. “‘Where is he and when is he going to be held accountable?’ We don’t know.”

Castanet News had heard from Okanagan social workers, who are unable to comment publicly, but are eager for the matter to hit the courts to reveal exactly how Saunders' was allegedly able to steal from so many youth without being detected.

Court documents outline the extensive efforts lawyers and skip tracers have gone to try to track Saunders down to serve him with the lawsuits, but none have been successful. A judge granted an application to serve Saunders with the lawsuits via email, but there has been no response to date.

Saunders is accused of stealing from dozens of Indigenous youth in his care by siphoning money out of joint bank accounts he set up with them. The provincial government has already admitted “vicarious liability” for his actions and settlement negotiations remain underway between the government and Saunders' alleged victims. 

Castanet reported last year that Saunders had a pair of fake degrees from the University of Manitoba on file with the province, which has resulted in the Ministry of Children and Family Development overhauling is screening processes for child protection workers.

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