UPDATE: Zinck committed fraud with precision: Crown

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HALIFAX (CP) — A former Nova Scotia politician who pleaded guilty to defrauding the provincial government of more than $5,000 did so with meticulous precision, a Crown attorney told Trevor Zinck’s sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Trevor Zinck, a former Nova Scotia MLA, arrives for his sentencing hearing at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Oct. 1.

Andrew Macdonald told Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Glen McDougall that he should reject Zinck’s claim that his crimes were motivated by recklessness that stemmed from a disorganized office and confusion about the expense claim process for members of the legislature.

“This was not a momentary lapse in judgment, nor was it a spontaneous or impulsive act, nor was it a reckless act,” Macdonald said.

“It’s the Crown’s position that Trevor Zinck committed a serious breach of trust while serving as the MLA for Dartmouth North. It was a deliberate act of fraud.”

Zinck pleaded guilty in June to fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust for accepting about $9,000 from the Speaker’s Office to cover constituency expenses in 2008 and 2009, even though he didn’t pay those he claimed were owed money.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for August, but the case was delayed after Zinck said he was still trying to find an expert’s opinion on his mental health.

Earlier on Tuesday, defence lawyer Lyle Howe submitted a brief that argued his client did not possess the wilful intent to commit fraud.

“There is a spectrum of levels of mental intent,” Howe told the Halifax courtroom. He said if wilful intent is at the high end of the spectrum then his client was at the other end, where recklessness is behind the intent.

Howe said there is ample evidence to suggest Zinck did not receive proper training on how to run his office and that he was a poor administrator who was left confused by the rules of the legislature.

He also said Zinck followed the rules and procedures as he understood them, but there was a lack of oversight in his office.

Macdonald told the court that if it accepts the defence argument, it lowers Zinck’s level of culpability. But the suggestion that Zinck was simply reckless with his office functions represents a “desperate and disingenuous attempt to minimize his responsibility,” Macdonald said.

“Mr. Zinck set out to intentionally deceive the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. ... We submit that he made sure that his paperwork had a veneer of legitimacy to it.”

Macdonald cited the example of the father of a young hockey player who asked Zinck for a donation to enable the 8-year-old boy to attend a summer hockey league.

In 2008, Zinck submitted an expense claim for the donation using a cancelled cheque as a receipt. He was reimbursed $860, court records show.

But when the father asked about the money, Zinck told him there was none available.

“You don’t have to be well educated to know what Trevor Zinck did was wrong,” Macdonald said.

Zinck, who sat as an Independent, initially refused to quit politics following his guilty plea, but resigned after the Speaker announced the legislature would be recalled to deal with his possible expulsion.

Three other former politicians have also pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges that stemmed from a 2010 investigation by the province’s auditor general into constituency allowance spending.

 

Organizations: Supreme Court

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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