Richard Hurlburt sentenced to house arrest and probabtion
Published Friday, July 27, 2012 1:00PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, July 27, 2012 7:48PM ADT
YARMOUTH, N.S. -- A former Nova Scotia cabinet minister who defrauded the province of more than $25,000 was sentenced Friday to a year of house arrest and a year of probation.
Richard Hurlburt pleaded guilty in April to charges of fraud and breach of trust in the province's constituency spending scandal.
The former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister defrauded the public purse of $25,321 between December 2006 and December 2008, according to an agreed statement of facts entered in the province's Supreme Court.
Crown lawyer Andrew Macdonald had recommended a sentence of between nine and 12 months in jail, followed by probation. But Stan MacDonald, Hurlburt's defence lawyer, called for a nine-month conditional sentence and 200 hours of community service, saying his client showed remorse, apologized and repaid the money.
Judge David MacAdam concluded that a jail term would have been inappropriate, given the circumstances of Hurlburt's case.
"I am satisfied there are no aggravating circumstances other than abuse of public trust," MacAdam said.
"The amount involved is substantially less than the amounts for which others have been sentenced to jail."
Hurlburt is the second former member of the legislature to plead guilty in the scandal after Dave Wilson, a former Liberal, admitted to defrauding taxpayers of $61,000 to feed a gambling addiction. Wilson was sentenced to nine months in jail.
Judge MacAdam explained that there are a number of differences between the crimes committed by Hurlburt and Wilson. He says Hurlburt didn’t involve others in his schemes while Wilson involved a number of innocent people by forging their signatures, Wilson stole more money and Hurlburt apologized quicker and more frequently.
Hurlburt and Wilson were two of four politicians charged in February 2011 after the province's auditor general conducted an investigation into constituency allowance spending.
Russell MacKinnon, a former Liberal cabinet minister, has pleaded not guilty to fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents. His trial is set to begin in March.
Independent member Trevor Zinck, who is charged with fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and theft over $5,000, has yet to enter a plea. His case has been adjourned until September.
Hurlburt represented the riding of Yarmouth before he abruptly quit politics in 2010. He submitted false claims including one for a $9,000 generator that wasn't purchase , court has heard. He was also given more than $3,500 for the purchase and installation of a 40-inch LCD television at his home.
Before he was charged, he defended the generator as a valid expense, saying it could be used in emergencies by a nearby seniors' home and ground search and rescue teams.
But court later heard he bought a cheaper generator and had it installed at his home.
Hurlburt is only allowed 100 feet from his home on his large lakefront property in Yarmouth County during his house arrest. He is allowed to leave for medical appointments, family emergencies, employment, to see his lawyer and for five hours once a week for personal business.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant