Lawyer charged with theft and fraud, accused of using money meant for people in Caledonia

John Wallace Findlay was arrested Wednesday. The 64-year-old was charged with criminal breach of trust, theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000.

Findlay McCarthy PC, previously said it used up $1.5 million from the settlement

A flag flies at the occupation of a planned housing development in Caledonia in 2006. The province awarded $20 million to local residents and businesses in 2011. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

A high-profile Hamilton lawyer has been charged with theft and fraud for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for the plaintiffs of the Caledonia class action lawsuit.

John Wallace Findlay was arrested Wednesday by detectives from the Hamilton police major fraud unit.

The 64-year-old was charged with criminal breach of trust, theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000.

Findlay represented the plaintiffs in the class action suit against several parties coming out of the 2006 Caledonia standoff, including the OPP and province of Ontario, which was settled for $20 million.

Part of his role was managing and distributing the money, according to police. After the original payouts, police say there was about $2.2 million in reserve funds in 2013.

Law firm used $1.5M

On May 29, 2017, Findlay reported himself to the Law Society of Ontario and admitted to using the trust money.

Findlay's firm, Findlay McCarthy PC, previously said it used $1.5 million from the settlement intended for residents and businesses included in a Caledonia protest-related lawsuit.

The firm filed the class action suit after a 2006 occupation at Douglas Creek Estates by Six Nations members, who said it was their land. The occupation was a heated, months-long ordeal that sometimes resulted in violence, injuries and property damage.

A railway bridge burns in Caledonia, Ontario on Thursday April 20, 2006. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

In July, 2011, the province agreed to a $20 million settlement for 440 residents, 400 businesses and some subcontractors.

Most of that money was distributed. But in 2012, the firm put $1.5 million in a trust for any additional claims. On Jan. 23, a judge approved distributing the remaining money, and PRO-C Limited was retained to do that.

Then the law firm posted on caledoniaclassaction.com saying it "used the settlement funds held in trust for the final administration of the Caledonia Compensation Plan and have been unable to replenish these funds in order to effect the final distribution at this time."

Anyone with information about the investigation is asked to contact Acting Detective Sergeant Kevin Dhinsa by calling (905) 546-4526 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

with files from Samantha Craggs