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Former MCFD social worker has pleaded guilty

Saunders pleads guilty

Madison Erhardt

UPDATE: 12:55 p.m.

A former Kelowna Ministry of Children and Family Development social worker has pleaded guilty to three charges, while ten others have been dropped.

On Monday, Robert Riley Saunders pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000, breach of trust in connection with his duties as a child protection guardianship worker, and using a forged document.

Prior to the plea Saunders faced 13 criminal charges, including 10 counts of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust by a public officer.

Plea deals generally involve the Crown dropping some charges in exchange for the accused to enter the plea.

The matter has been adjourned to March 21 for the sentencing hearing.


ORIGINAL: 11: 50 a.m.

Robert Riley Saunders is expected to plead guilty in Kelowna court today.

The former Kelowna Ministry of Children and Family Development social worker who allegedly stole thousands of dollars from at-risk youth in his care for years, is facing 13 criminal charges.

The charges include 10 counts of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust by a public officer.

It's not clear what charges he plans to plead guilty to.

At that time, both Crown and defence said they planned on having a seven-day Gardiner hearing following Saunders' guilty pleas, where evidence is presented to a judge about aggravating and mitigating sentencing facts in a case, which are in dispute.

Saunders' criminal charges were laid more than two years after he was hit with a number of civil lawsuits from former youth in his care, many of whom were at-risk Indigenous youth when they were in Saunders' care.

The lawsuits alleged “Saunders sought out and exploited aboriginal high-risk youth because he knew that his supervisors and managers... would not look closely at their affairs or adequately safeguard their interests.”

Last year, the provincial government settled a class-action lawsuit, agreeing to pay dozens of former youth in Saunders' care tens of thousands of dollars.

The civil suits claim Saunders would open joint bank accounts with the youth in his care, and then withdraw government money meant to be used for their care, for his own use.

Saunders remains out of custody after he was granted bail two weeks after his initial arrest.



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