London, Ont., Mayor Joe Fontana has been found guilty on three charges – forgery, fraud and breach of trust – related to the spending of government money from the time he was a Liberal member of Parliament nearly a decade ago.
The Ontario Superior Court decision Friday comes after Fontana was accused of spending $1,700 on a reception for his son's wedding at London's Marconi Club, then getting the money reimbursed as an MP.
He had pleaded not guilty, saying the funds were used for a reception for then Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale.
The mayor teared up as the verdict was read. As the current mayor of London, Fontana had up until now rebuffed calls to step down, but voters came to the courthouse to call for his resignation with this verdict.
Fontana admitted to forging documents around the reimbursement after the Goodale event was cancelled, but insisted the $1,700 claim was legitimate.
The Ontario court's judge said Fontana's defence "defies belief," and that he believed Fontana and the president of Marconi club concocted a story for the court intended to create reasonable doubt.
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Fontana testified last month that it was "stupid" and a "mistake" to alter a document he submitted for expenses while he was an MP.
He said he altered an invoice for his son's June 2005 wedding to reflect the reception planned for Goodale at the same venue.
Even though that event did not happen as scheduled, Fontana said he believed he owed the Marconi Club a $1,700 deposit, but did not have any paperwork.
The judge said a simple phone call to the club would have produced that invoice, which again was unbelievable.
A government of Canada cheque for that amount was ultimately sent to the Marconi Club, where it was listed on its books as payment for the wedding.
Fontana said he was "disappointed" with the verdict and would consult with his legal team before deciding whether he will appeal.
Fontana will be sentenced July 15.