4 new social worker lawsuits

The lawsuits keep stacking against a Kelowna social worker accused of stealing money from vulnerable children in his care.

Four new civil lawsuits were filed in Vancouver Supreme Court Wednesday against Robert Riley Saunders detailing allegations similar to previous lawsuits — that he stole money from youth in his care, leaving them in some cases homeless.

CTV News reports in one of the new cases, a teen alleges he was shipped to Ontario to live with his dad. When the boy told Saunders about his concerns, they fell on deaf ears, and it’s alleged the social worker stole funds from a joint account leaving the boy homeless and on hard drugs.

Another lawsuit claims a teen was kicked out of his rental suite after Saunders lied about paying rent. That teen also ended up homeless.

B.C.'s representative for children and youth tells CTV News up to 45 kids may have been victimized by Saunders. Jennifer Charlesworth called the case “disturbing,” but said they can’t investigate until the police investigation concludes.

No criminal charges have been laid yet and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

The total number of lawsuits naming Saunders now total 10, including one class-action. 

The Ministry of Children and Family Development admitted “vicarious liability” in one of the previous lawsuits and said it would provide support to the impacted teen. The credit union that held the joint accounts is also being sued, but has denied responsibility.  Saunders' supervisor has also been named.

Other cases, however, continue to make their way through the courts. Lawyers in Kelowna this week argued over whether the RCMP should be forced to turn over investigation notes involving a 2012 sex assault allegation one of the female teenage plaintiffs made while she was in government care.

One of the lawyers representing the former youth says the case will only be getting bigger.

“We're going back at least a decade. The amount of money stolen by Mr. Saunders from these vulnerable children is approximately $400,000 to $500,000,” Jason Gratl told CTV News on Wednesday. “The damage done to these children though - rendered homeless, sometimes sexually exploited at a point of great vulnerability in their lives - will be a great deal more than that.”

He says he’ll be filing more lawsuits on behalf of his clients in the coming weeks.

Saunders, who is no longer with the ministry, has not made himself available for comment.

with files from CTV Vancouver 

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