Manitoba

Former Beausejour mayor on house arrest on multiple counts of fraud

A former Manitoba funeral home owner and Beausejour mayor is serving a conditional sentence for multiple counts of fraud after his clients lost $85,000 set aside for pre-paid funerals.

Harvey Giesbrecht pleaded guilty to 21 counts of fraud adding up to $85k for funeral home clients

Former funeral home owner Harvey Giesbrecht is serving a conditional sentence for multiple counts of fraud.

A former Manitoba funeral home owner and Beausejour mayor is serving a conditional sentence for multiple counts of fraud after his clients lost $85,000 set aside for pre-paid funerals.

Harvey Giesbrecht, 56, was the mayor of Beausejour between 2002 and 2006. He owned Russell's Funeral Home in Beausejour between 2003 and 2009. 

Richard Wojcik was buying Giesbrecht's funeral home and noticed discrepancies in the company finances.

RCMP started investigating in 2009 and found that the money his clients gave Giesbrecht for pre-paid funerals were not placed in trust accounts as they're supposed to be under The Prearranged Funeral Services Act. He was using the money to pay for personal living expenses and funeral arrangements for other people. 

Giesbrecht pleaded guilty to 21 charges of fraud and Crown and defence lawyers made a joint recommendation to give him a conditional sentence in the community with three years of supervised probation.

Instead, a judge sentenced him to a nine-month jail sentence with two years of supervised probation. 

Giesbrecht appealed, saying the sentencing judge made a mistake in rejecting the joint recommendation of a conditional sentence.

On March 1, the Manitoba Court of Appeal found that that recommended sentence was suitable and the product of a plea bargain.

Giesbrecht is facing a conditional sentence for two years less a day. He's on house arrest with exceptions to go to work, treatment, medical appointments, community service, meetings with his supervisor and three hours a week to run errands. He also has to do 200 hours of community service within 15 months.

Val Lange doesn't think his sentence is enough.

She paid Giesbrecht's business $5,000 for her dad's pre-paid funeral. A year and a half later, her dad died and she tried to make funeral arrangements.

At the time Wojcik was in the process of buying the business and told her there was no record of her money.

"It was pretty heartbreaking," Lange said. "We were shocked."

Wojcik went ahead and did the funeral for no extra cost because she had copies of all the payments to Giesbrecht.

"I don't think he should be let off that easy. He put a lot of people out," she said.

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