One of Dave Wilson's victims has spoken out after the former MLA pleaded guilty to one count each of uttering forged documents, fraud and breach of trust.
Wilson, the former Liberal MLA for Glace Bay, appeared in a Sydney courtroom on Tuesday. He did not speak in court or to waiting reporters. His lawyer entered his guilty plea.
His guilty plea marks the first admission of guilt in the scandal over constituency spending that saw four former and current provincial politicians charged, including Wilson.
He submitted fraudulent receipts for money he claimed to have paid for work in his constituency office.
Neither the police nor the Crown lawyers have disclosed the evidence against Wilson, but sources have told CBC News that Wilson allegedly used the names of several people, their social insurance numbers and forged their signatures to pocket thousands of dollars in expense money.
Brother-in-law 'sick' at betrayal
Joe MacPherson's sister had been married to Wilson for almost 20 years before the scandal broke. MacPherson was in court Tuesday and spoke exclusively to CBC News after Wilson admitted his guilt.
"I do feel like the wind and the guts have been kicked out of me," MacPherson said, adding that friends, family and constituents were also baffled by the betrayal.
MacPherson's troubles started when he got a T4 slip in February 2010 from the Speaker's office for work he had done for Wilson. MacPherson said he had previously done work for Wilson, but not for the amount the T4 claimed.
"I was looking at it and wondering, what is this? What did I do to earn this money?" he said. "My friend Mr. Wilson [said] if you happen to receive a phone call about doing any work for me, make sure that you speak to me before you respond."
Before MacPherson could air his concerns, he got a call from the auditor general's office. They were investigating MLA expenses and wanted to interview him. He agreed and went over a "large number" of expenses claimed in his name.
"I got sick," he said. "It wasn't my signature. I had a lot of trust and faith in my brother-in-law and at that point, all bets were off. I didn't know who I was dealing with."
The claims added up to many thousands of dollars, he said.
"There's two Dave Wilsons here. There was the Dave Wilson that I knew who was my good friend, who was a very honest and caring individual that would give you the last $5 in his pocket. And then there's this Dave Wilson that now has admitted to guilt," MacPherson said.
"There were things going on in his life that he had lost control of. The ship was sinking. The money to bail out wasn't there, and he just kept spending more and more to try and recover, and the ship sunk."
MacPherson said Wilson has not explained himself, nor offered an apology. "It's driven a hole into our family."
Wilson maintains silence
Wilson has not spoken publicly since he resigned suddenly last year at the height of the provincial auditor general's investigation into possible irregularities in expense account spending.
At the time, Wilson sent an email to members of the news media and wrote that he no longer felt he could fulfill his duties and responsibilities as an MLA. He did not elaborate on why he was quitting politics.
After Auditor General Jacques Lapointe turned over his files to the RCMP, the commercial crime unit conducted a lengthy investigation.
Wilson was charged in February with 31 counts of uttering a forged document and one count each of fraud exceeding $5,000 and breach of trust. Crown attorney Andrew Macdonald said those charges were consolidated into the three Wilson pleaded guilty to.
The Crown said the offences were all committed between June 30, 2005, and June 30, 2010. Wilson admitted to counts of:
- Fraud over $5,000
- Breach of trust
- Uttering forged documents
Macdonald described the offences as an "ongoing scheme" in which Wilson submitted false claims to the Speaker's office and collected thousands of dollars.
Ex-MLAs Richard Hurlburt and Russell MacKinnon and current Independent MLA Trevor Zinck were also charged.
While the maximum sentence for fraud is 14 years in prison, the Crown has not said what length or type of sentence it will be seeking. Macdonald said the offences were very serious as it was a breach of trust from an elected official.
Wilson will have a sentencing hearing Jan. 25. He remains free until then.
Wilson, once the chairman of the Liberal caucus, was first elected in 1999 and was re-elected five times.
Before entering politics, he worked as a broadcast journalist in Cape Breton and Saint John, N.B.