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Fraudulent Kelowna social worker sentenced to 5 years in prison

Riley Saunders stole approximately $461,000 that was intended for over 107 youth in his care

A fraudulent social worker was sentenced to five years in prison, following a lengthy trial in a Kelowna Supreme Court.

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 Justice Wilson.

Saunders previously pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud, breach of trust and using a forged document.

The vulnerability of the youth in his care is an aggravating factor, said Wilson.

Saunders targeted Indigenous youth under the care of the state for fraudulent activity.

“While he was enjoying the spoils of his scheme, his youth was struggling,” said Wilson.

As a youth guardianship worker, Saunders created 24 joint bank accounts with the youth to which he would deposit funds, intended for the youth. He would then transfer the funds to his bank account.

Saunders would then create additional paperwork to make it look like the youth were receiving the cheques.

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.

“Mr. Saunders’ moral and ethical compass was as good as he could get away with,” said Justice Wilson.

The judge said that Saunders regrets his actions solely because of the consequences, not because of the deprivation it caused to the youth under his care.

Saunders will serve five years for fraud and two years concurrently for breach of trust and one month for forged document.

READ MORE: Trust in social systems ‘destroyed’: victim of fraudulent Kelowna social worker

READ MORE: Kelowna judge rules disgraced former social worker deprived youth


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