Court orders senior to repay part of $13,000 fraud against social services

Saskatchewan Provincial Court in Prince Albert. Herald File Photo

An elderly man has pleaded guilty to helping his girlfriend defraud social services of $13,000.

Gerald F. Hanson, 70, appeared in Prince Albert’s provincial courthouse on Monday to face fraud charges. In 2011, a woman Hanson said was his common-law partner was filling out an application for assistance from social services. According to the Crown, Hanson advised her to claim that she was single in order to receive additional benefits.

Over the next four years, the woman accumulated thousands in overpayments – with the Crown estimating the value of the fraud at $13,000. Prosecutor Linh Le argued that Hanson benefited from that money.

“Mr. Hanson advised the RCMP that he knew what was happening,” Le said. “He advised (his girlfriend) to defraud the ministry by filling out these forms.”

Hanson, a former ferry operator, sat in court in flannel and sweatpants, with his walker by his side. Le was asking for probation with a condition for Hanson to pay back $1,000, and a separate order for $5,000 in restitution.

His lawyer said he has limited ability to repay the money. She said that her client had been “struggling financially.” She told the court that he is remorseful and admits to his role in the fraud.

Judge Earl Kalenith accepted her arguments and agreed that the $1,000 condition would be setting him up for failure.

“That would be unrealistic to think that you could pay restitution as a condition of the probation order,” he said.

He put Hanson on 12 months probation with a reporting condition and imposed a separate $6,000 repayment order. If he fails to pay it, he won’t face any criminal sanction for a breach.

Hanson spoke with the Daily Herald after his appearance. He denied that he ever benefited from the payments and said his sentence was unfair.

“She asked me ‘how do you think we can get more money?’” he recalled. “I said maybe I can help her out.”

He said he felt that the total amount of overpayments was far less than the $13,000 the Crown alleged. Nonetheless, he pleaded guilty.