Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
The former lending manager of the Perth Community Futures Development Corporation will serve 30 months in jail for the frauds he committed against the non-profit company.
JD Graham stood in silence and stared down at the table in front of him as Justice Roland Haines handed down his judgement in Stratford’s Superior Court Friday morning.
Afterwards, a clearly emotional Graham was consoled by his wife Susan and other family members, some of whom sat in the courtroom throughout the proceedings fighting back tears themselves.
In his ruling, Justice Haines said general deterrence was his primary consideration when deciding on a period of incarceration.
Additionally, Graham was ordered to not have contact with any PCFDC staff or volunteers for the duration of his sentence.
Defence lawyer Henry Van Drunen had asked for a lesser sentence of two years to be served in the community given his client had pled guilty, co-operated with police and expressed remorse for his actions.
Meanwhile, crown prosecutor Mike Murdoch had maintained three years in a penitentiary was warranted because of the amount of the frauds, the level of planning and the breach of trust involved in them.
Graham, 47, previously pled guilty to stealing $575,863.
Haines said the crimes cost the PCFDC – whose main objective is to provide business advice and start-up funding to new businesses in Perth County – capital, unrealized interest and severely impeded its ability to further invest.
“At the time Mr. Graham was taking money from the program, several other legitimate loan applications had to be rejected because of limited resources,” he noted. “(His) fraudulent conduct has prevented many in the community from pursuing business and employment opportunities.”
It also cost the company hundreds of man-hours to investigate the depth of the fraud, he added.
The crimes were committed over a five-year-period beginning in 2006 but not discovered until the PCFDC undertook a review of defaulted loans in 2011.
A subsequent investigation uncovered two schemes perpetrated by Graham – creating fictitious loan applications that he would present to the PCFDC's finance committee, and creating fake invoices for services not supplied. The approved loans and issued cheques were then deposited into his own accounts.
Justice Haines concluded Graham’s actions were not impulsive or unconsidered, but involved considerable planning and deception.
“Either scheme would not have been possible if Mr. Graham had not occupied the position of trust he did,” he added.
Speaking with media following the hearing, PCFDC general manager Nigel Howard said he was relieved the matter was behind them.
“It’s been a very stressful for everybody, the board, staff, and I think the community,” he added.
While he noted he takes no personal satisfaction in the verdict, Howard said he felt justice had been done.
“I’m satisfied the judge recognized the severity of the crimes and dealt with it appropriately,” he added.
Even with the criminal case complete, Howard said the PCFDC will continue to pursue any legal means of recovering the money that was stolen.
The company won a civil lawsuit against Graham in early 2011 but has yet to receive any of the $763,168 that Graham was ordered to pay back. The PCFDC filed a new statement of claim in December in an attempt to recover the money.