A Tecumseh woman who pleaded guilty to stealing Ontario Health Insurance cheques intended for doctors employed at Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital will learn her punishment Oct. 20.
Baljit Dhaliwal stole more than $400,000 when she worked at the hospital, where she filed claims on behalf of physicians.
A tearful Dhaliwal apologized to the court and said she wanted to give her children everything they wanted without having to say no.
But the Crown painted a different picture; one of a woman who stole taxpayer money to live beyond her means. Even Dhaliwal's lawyer, Pat Ducharme, called the fraud "unsophisticated."
Dhaliwal filed OHIP claims on behalf of her physicians. But when OHIP sent the cheques to the hospital, the 40-year-old was supposed to mail them to the doctors they were intended for.
However, Dhaliwal would take the government-issued cheques made payable to doctors and deposit them into her personal bank account.
Crime spree last four years
She deposited 182 cheques into her account over years. None were in her name.
"It's amazing to me that it could go on so long and no one, but no one, notices," Ducharme said. "The people at the hospital don't appear to notice. The people at the bank don't appear to notice. Maybe it became too easy. I don't know."
Someone at the hospital finally noticed, fired Dhaliwal and called police.
By then, she had already spent the money in what the crown called "sheer greed."
Money paid for Mercedes
Court heard Dhaliwal spent the money on cosmetic surgery, spa treatments, vacations to Miami, Arizona, Las Vegas and Cancun. Some of those trips with her children.
According to evidence, Dhaliwal also drove a Mercedes-Benz and made monthly credit card payments in thousands.
Ducharme is asking for a conditional sentence plus restitution.
The Crown is asking for a nine- to 12-month jail sentence.
"There’s a good argument (that) can be made either way. The prosecution, I thought, made an able argument for actual jail," Ducharme said outside court Tuesday.
He said the judge can "at least consider" a conditional sentence.
Woman fears jail
Dhaliwal left the court house in a bizarre disguise, which included ski goggles.
The insurance company representing the doctors paid the claims, so Dhaliwal will have to reimburse them.
Dhaliwal promised to pay back every penny and begged the judge to not place her in jail.
"This is a very difficult time for her," Ducharme said. "She’s afraid."