Former construction boss Tony Accurso guilty on all 5 counts in Laval fraud and corruption trial

The jury in the fraud and corruption trial of Tony Accurso has found the former construction mogul guilty on all counts against him. The seven men and five women of the jury deliberated for seven days at the Laval courthouse

Accurso was charged with fraud, 2 counts of conspiracy, breach of trust and corruption

Former construction boss Tony Accurso, 66, leaves the courtroom after a jury found him guilty of five charges related to fraud and municipal corruption. He will be back in court June 28 for sentencing arguments. (CBC)

The jury in the fraud and corruption trial of Tony Accurso has found the former construction mogul guilty on all counts against him.

Accurso faced five charges: conspiracy to commit acts of corruption, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud over $5,000, municipal corruption, and aiding in a breach of trust.

He was accused of being part of a system of corruption that eliminated all competition for municipal contracts in Laval between 1996 and 2010.

The jury began its deliberations on June 19, emerging on two occasions, once on Thursday to ask for a transcript of the defendant's testimony, and again Friday with questions for Superior Court Justice James Brunton about a key witness.

Brunton refused the jury's request for a transcript but gave jurors an audio recording of that testimony.

The jury remained sequestered through Quebec's Fête nationale holiday weekend, handing down the envelope containing their verdict just after 4 p.m. Monday, on the seventh day of deliberations.

"They had a very important task and role in the last six days and a half," said Crown prosecutor Philippe-Pierre Langevin. "I'm sure that was a very demanding task, methodical and a big effort [on] their part."
Crown prosecutor Philippe-Pierre Langevin praised the jurors in the Tony Accurso trial for their hard work. They deliberated for close to seven days through a holiday weekend before delivering their verdict.

Accurso showed no expression as the guilty verdicts were read out in the courtroom, leaving the courthouse of his own accord following the verdict. He is expected back in court on Thursday for sentencing arguments.

The longtime construction entrepreneur faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. His lawyer, Marc Labelle, said no decision has yet been made as to whether there will be an appeal of the verdict.

Accurso denied role in collusion

During his testimony, Accurso denied being part of a system collusion and kickbacks.

He testified that his focus was on growing his construction empire, and he left the day-to-day operations to his right-hand men, Joe Molluso and Frank Minicucci, the respective presidents of Louisbourg Construction and Simard-Beaudry Construction.

Accurso went on to say he heard rumblings of a system of collusion in Laval on two occasions through his longtime friend, the City of Laval's former director general, Claude Asselin.

He testified that Asselin brought it up in conversation in 1997 and 2002.

Accurso said on both occasions, he asked Molluso and Mincucci if they knew about a system of collusion. Both times, he said, they told him they did not.

Accurso said he didn't investigate the matter further.

During his cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Richard Rougeau pressed Accurso on why he didn't dig any deeper into the rumours of corruption. The defendant said he trusted the word of his presidents.

Witness: Envelopes of cash from Accurso

One of the Crown's key witnesses was retired engineer Marc Gendron, who was described as a former collector for ex-Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.

Vaillancourt pleaded guilty to fraud on the government, breach of trust, conspiracy and fraud in 2016.

Gendron testified that he collected two envelopes filled with $200,000 in cash from Accurso in exchange for construction contracts about 15 years ago.

Accurso denied the exchange happened.

Rougeau also asked the defendant about his meetings with Gilles Vaillancourt, which a former secretary for the mayor described as being secret during her testimony.

Accurso denied his meetings with the former mayor — which took place a few times a year — were ever a secret.

He said he would meet Vaillancourt at Laval City Hall, and the two would go for lunch in public at a restaurant.

Tainted jury led to mistrial

The road to today's verdict was a rocky one.

Accurso's first trial in Laval ended in a mistrial last November, following an issue involving three jury members.

Justice Brunton was made aware that a juror had received information from an uncle about Crown witness Marc Gendron.

The uncle had described once working for Gendron and seeing a suitcase full of money in his office.

The juror shared this information with two other jurors, which ultimately led to Brunton declaring a mistrial.

UPAC investigated

Once jurors in the second trial were sequestered earlier this week, information surfaced about an investigation into the first trial's jury.

In April, Accurso's defence lawyer Marc Labelle sent the judge a motion for a stay of proceedings against his client, after discovering that investigators tracked down and questioned at least three members of the first jury.

According to Labelle's motion, the investigation lasted a month, involving an investigator from Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC.

Ultimately, Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) concluded no criminal act had been committed.

Labelle's motion went on to argue that, following the investigation, the Crown had access to privileged information related to the first jury's work, including perception of witnesses and lawyers involved in the case.

"The investigative process of the State is a full-frontal attack on the independence of the jurors and the integrity of the very institution of the jury trial," Labelle wrote in the motion.

In response, the Crown wrote to Brunton that prosecutors in the case "did not obtain information that would benefit them in making strategic decisions for [Accurso's] second trial."

The judge rejected Labelle's motion for a stay of proceedings.