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Fraudulent Kelowna social worker facing prison wishes he could ‘go back in time’

Saunders stole approximately $461,000 intended for 107 Indigenous youth in his care
Protesters gather outside the Kelowna Court House during the sentencing of fraudulent social worker Robert Riley Saunders (Jacqueline Gelineau)

A fraudulent social worker addressed a Supreme Court in Kelowna on July 12 to express remorse for his actions.

While working at the Ministry of Children and Family Development as a social worker, Robert Riley Saunders stole approximately $461,000 that was intended for over 107 youth in his care, said Crown counsel.

“I wish I could go back in time and speak to myself and be a voice of reason to myself… to stop myself from acting on my greed and selfish behaviour,” said Saunders.

Crown stated that each of his victims was a vulnerable Indigenous youth that had been taken from their parents, making them prime candidates for Saunders’ “opportunistic” scheme.

“Sorry to the youth and families I was responsible to care for,” said Saunders.

On May 20, a Kelowna Supreme Court judge ruled that the misappropriation of funds negatively impacted the youth in Saunders’ care, an aggravating factor of the case which Saunders repeatedly denied while under cross-examination during the earlier Gardiner hearing.

Throughout the hearing, the fraudulent social worker maintained that the youth experienced no financial deprivation and was not entitled to the funds he misappropriated.

Many of the youth suffered significant trauma, homelessness and substance use because of the actions of Saunders, said Crown.

In victim impact statements, the youth stated that due to the lies and deceit by Saunders, they do not trust authority figures and are apprehensive to seek help from the ministry or other state-run organizations.

Saunders alleges that he “never set out to harm anybody.”

He pled guilty to fraud over $5,000, forging a university diploma and breaching trust as a public official in Sept. 2021.

The accused has been indicted on 13 charges of fraud, theft and breach of trust.

Defence alleges that Saunders has been going to counselling since the offence and submits that he is remorseful for his actions and is a good candidate for rehabilitation.

Crown is requesting a sentence of six years in custody for the fraud.

Court will reconvene on July 25.


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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