A former Nova Scotia politician who defrauded the provincial government of more than $5,000 was jailed for four months Wednesday.
Trevor Zinck pleaded guilty in June to fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust for accepting about $9,000 from the Speaker's Office to cover constituency expenses in 2008 and 2009, even though he didn't pay those owed money.
Justice Glen McDougall said the evidence and testimony made it clear Zinck knew the rules governing MLA expense accounts. He said Zinck used non-profit organizations as unwitting props to commit his crimes.
The judge called it a blatant attempt to defraud taxpayers of their money.
McDougall said the evidence pointed to Zinck having a drinking and gambling problem, but the former politician had denied that. McDougall said while he didn't steal a large amount of money, it took planning to defraud the public to "satisfy his selfish greed."
Zinck was also sentenced to 12 months of probation. He was told he must undergo alcohol and gambling counselling if his probation officer orders it.
'I am embarrassed'
Zinck said sorry to his family and the charities he took money from.
"I am embarrassed," he told the court. "I am sincerely apologetic."
He was then led away to start his incarceration.
Defence lawyer Lyle Howe said his client was prepared for the sentence.
“He’s doing extremely well,” said Howe.
The judge had been critical that Zinck didn’t show remorse. Howe disagreed.
“He is sorry for what he’s done,” he said. “We can’t live in regret...we’ve all got stressors in our lives. It’s easy to watch somebody fall and sort of point a camera at them and criticize. Trevor is human.”
Crown attorney Andrew Macdonald called it a sad day. He noted that four years ago, Zinck was elected to office and had a bright future.
“I think you can’t help but be a little bit sad that someone could find themselves in these circumstances after that promising of a start,” he said.
But Macdonald added it was an "appropriate" sentence that showed denunciation and offered deterrence.
At a hearing last week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Howe submitted a brief that argued his client did not wilfully commit fraud.
It also said Zinck followed the rules and procedures of the legislature, but there was a lack of oversight in his office.
“Hindsight is 20/20," said Howe outside the court room.
"Would we have done everything entirely the same? Not necessarily. But do I think we did what we could to put a defence forward for Trevor? Yes. Is Trevor satisfied with the defence that was put forward for him? Absolutely.”
Zinck, who was elected as an NDP but who sat as an Independent after the scandal broke, initially refused to quit politics following his guilty plea, but resigned after the Speaker announced the legislature would be recalled to deal with his possible expulsion.
Three other former politicians have also pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges that stemmed from a 2010 investigation by the province's auditor general into constituency allowance spending.