A disgraced former Kelowna social worker will stand trial for a variety of fraud and theft charges by judge alone.
After years of investigation and several civil lawsuits, Robert Riley Saunders was arrested in December and charged with 10 counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust and one count of uttering a forged document.
On Monday, he appeared briefly in a Kelowna courtroom electing to be tried by a Supreme Court Justice sitting without a jury.
Aside from criminal charges, Saunders — as well as the Ministry of Children and Family Development — faced a class-action lawsuit led by former youth in care in B.C.
Statements of claim accuse Saunders of stealing the funds deposited into accounts of those youth, leaving the foster children homeless and subject to physical and sexual abuse, as well as vulnerable to addiction.
In October, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross approved a settlement for more than 100 people.
The notice of settlement says each member will get a basic $25,000 payment and those who are Indigenous will get an additional $44,000.
Further damages could be paid to those who experienced homelessness, psychological harm, sexual exploitation, injury, or whose education was delayed, the settlement says.
In January, another civil claim was levied against Saunders, alleging he failed to inform children in his care of programs available to them upon their release from provincial custody. That claim also has the potential to become a class action lawsuit.
Saunders was hired by the ministry in 1996 and transferred to Kelowna in 2001. He was fired in 2018.
Saunders is scheduled to next appear in court on March 8. He remains out of custody on bail.
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