Tony Tomassi, the now independent MNA for the Lafontaine riding, has been formally charged with fraud and breach of trust. ((Jacques Boissinot/CP))

A former Quebec family minister with the Liberal Party was formally charged with fraud and breach of trust Monday.

Tony Tomassi did not attend the hearing at the Quebec City courthouse, where a lawyer appeared on his behalf.

The former minister, who was kicked out of the Liberal cabinet in May 2010, allegedly committed fraud by accepting rewards or benefits without the government's consent.

Tomassi, who was first elected to represent the Montreal-area LaFontaine riding in 2003, is accused of paying gas bills with a credit card belonging to the now-defunct BCIA, a company that had received millions of dollars in government contracts.

BCIA received a $1.6 million prison security contract with the government, and also received a provincial loan before the company went bankrupt.

In a statement, Tomassi says he will fight the charges and expects to remain as the representative for the east-end Montreal district of LaFontaine during the legal proceedings.

The accusations against Tomassi represent the latest ethics embarrassment to hit the scandal-plagued Charest government.

Tomassi is facing up to five years in prison.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 10.

With files from the Canadian Press