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September 19, 2005
Steal Big, Risk Little

The first sentencing from the Adscam political scandal came from the Quebec Superior Court this afternoon, and the lesson the court taught Paul Coffin apparently amounts to audacity pays. Despite pleading guilty to 15 counts of fraud and the theft of over $1.5 million in Sponsorship Programme funds, Coffin will not serve a single day in prison:

Advertising executive Paul Coffin was sentenced Monday to a conditional sentence of two years less a day, to be served in the community, for defrauding Canadian taxpayers of $1.5-million. Coffin pleaded guilty earlier this year to 15 fraud charges.

Justice Jean-Guy Boilard of Quebec Superior Court said he allowed Mr. Coffin to avoid jail after considering his clean record, his repayment of $1 million to the federal government and his remorse.

Mr. Coffin is genuinely contrite but unfortunately he cannot turn the clock back, Judge Boilard said.

Am I missing something? If my math holds up, it looks like Coffin made a profit of $500,000. How could that add up to suspending his sentence? I may not know much about the Canadian system of justice, but I feel reasonably sure that any average accountant that scammed that kind of money off of his client would get the 34 months the Crown requested that Coffin serve for his crimes.

This does not bode well for future Adscam prosecutions. When Jean Brault and Chuck Guit defend themselves in court, will they also get a pass after raiding the Canadian taxpayers and laundering money for the Liberal Party? If they plead guilty and make a two-thirds restitution, they can claim that they fulfilled the same qualifications as Coffin and deserve the same treatment. Since these three comprise the entire set of Adscam players facing legal action of any kind, Canadians may not see anyone serve a day in prison over the worst embezzlement and money-laundering scheme in their history.

Canadians must ask themselves if the message that they want to send to those who commit crimes is to steal big in order to risk little. Not only will such criminals serve no time if caught and feign remorse, but won't even be forced to give back all of the money. That hardly seems like a deterrent.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 19, 2005 4:47 PM

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