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April 7, 2006
Key Adscam Figure Gets 18 Months

One of the three key Sponsorship Programme figures facing criminal charges in the fraud conspiracy has had a prison sentence imposed on him after prosecutors appealed his initial sentencing. Paul Coffin, who pled guilty to 15 counts of fraud stemming from the $1.6 million of taxpayer money he collected from taxpayers, got sentenced to 18 months in prison earlier today (via Newsbeat1):

Montreal advertising executive Paul Coffin was sentenced to an 18-month prison term in a Quebec appeals court on Friday for his role in defrauding the federal government out of $1.5 million in sponsorship funds.

In May, Coffin pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud for his involvement in the sponsorship fiasco.

He initially received a two-year less a day conditional sentence of community service.

However, the Crown appealed that decision, saying the sentence was not enough to deter others from doing the same in the future.

I wrote about the ridiculous sentence given Coffin last year on September 19th in a post called "Steal Big, Risk Little". Coffin had netted well over one and half million dollars from his exploitation of the Sponsorship Programme, and yet the Canadian court only forced him to repay one million dollars as part of his sentence. Essentially it gave Coffin a 35% profit margin on his fraud, proving that crime pays in Canada.

The court had also sentenced Coffin to two years of community service -- speaking about the evils of fraud to college students, not picking up trash on highway embankments. He also had to endure a 9 pm curfew on weeknights, but apparently had no such restrictions on his weekends. Other than that and the felony conviction on his record, Coffin escaped punishment for his five-year theft of money from the government.

Prosecutors successfully argued that the purpose of sentencing involves not just rehabilitation, but actual punishment and deterrence. The appeals court agreed, critizing the sentencing judge for getting too wrapped up in Coffin's personal life to render a proper judgment. The original court forgot that two parties had come to the bar for justice -- Coffin and the Crown, representing the people. It was impossible to argue that the original sentence provided any justice for Canadians who just had their pockets picked.

This development does not bode well for the other two defendants in the Adscam case, Chuck Guité and Jean Brault. Brault also pled guilty to five separate counts of fraud which allowed him to steal a like amount, and his prospects for avoiding jail time appear slim indeed. Guité has pled not guilty and forced the Canadian government to prosecute the case; if he loses, he can expect an even tougher sentence.

Canadians will be impressed to see that someone will finally serve time for the worst scandal in recent Canadian memory. One wonders if the punishment will remain limited to these three cogs in a much larger money-laundering machine.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 7, 2006 6:08 PM

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