New Brunswick

Former Assumption Life VP pleads guilty to $630K in fraud and forgery

Paul LeBlanc, once a vice-president at Assumption Life, is now facing sentencing for fraud and forgery totalling $630,000 during his 15 years with the Moncton insurance and investment firm.

Paul LeBlanc took out loans in clients' names without their knowledge, Moncton courtroom hears

Paul LeBlanc (wearing black tuque) is due back in Moncton court on Thursday when his sentencing hearing continues. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Paul LeBlanc, once a vice-president at Assumption Life, is now facing sentencing for fraud and forgery totalling $630,000 during his 15 years with the Moncton insurance and investment firm.

LeBlanc, who previously pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, pleaded guilty Wednesday to additional charges of committing fraud against Ethel and Rene LeBlanc, and using a forged document.

Crown prosecutor Stephen Holt dropped five other charges against him before proceeding with the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled to last three days.

The agreed statement of facts submitted by the Crown says LeBlanc took out loans in clients' names without their knowing. The Moncton courtroom also heard that he falsified loan and investment statements.

His victims were Ethel LeBlanc, Rene LeBlanc, sisters Patricia LeBlanc-Bird, Ann LeBLanc and their father, Norman LeBlanc, who died in August 2014. The obituary describes Paul LeBLanc as a "special friend."

'Mr. LeBlanc fooled us all.'- Réjean Boudreau, Assumption Life

Rene LeBLanc lost $11,027.60, according to a summary of victims' financial losses submitted by the Crown.

Ethel LeBlanc was reportedly swindled out of $65,313.17 and Assumption Life lost $291,327.90.

LeBlanc started at Assumption Life in 2000, working his way up the ladder and finishing his career as vice-president of sales and marketing in September 2015, when he was fired.

He was arrested in November that year following an investigation by the RCMP prompted by complaints from Assumption Life.

The agreed statement of facts says old documents found in boxes meant for shredding contained "partial signatures" of victim Ethel LeBlanc.

 "One sheet had multiple copied signatures."

Some co-workers cried

Réjean Boudreau, vice-president and chief of organizational development at Assumption Life, told the courtroom he was shocked when clients brought complaints forward.

"Mr. LeBlanc fooled us all," Boudreau said in French, reading his victim impact statement aloud. "He was seen as the good guy."

It was a stressful time for employees, said Boudreau. They were scared and some of them cried, he said. They couldn't understand how LeBlanc could do such a thing.

All of LeBlanc's files were reviewed, which took six employees about five months to do, said Boudreau.

All of his LeBlanc's clients were also contacted, he said, estimating the company lost $1 million in withdrawn investments after LeBlanc's  actions were made public.

Crown seeks 3-year sentence

The Crown asked Court of Queen's Bench Justice Zoël Dionne to consider imposing a three-year sentence, as well as restitution totalling $367,668.67.

LeBlanc committed hundreds of fraudulent acts, stressed Holt.

"These acts are highly complex," involving the manipulation of documents, both cut and paste and digital, he said. "He would have had to plan."

LeBlanc kept shuffling money around to keep the ruse going, taking money from victims' investments and moving it to cover loan payments and avoid defaulting, said Holt.

His crimes only came to light because victim Patricia LeBlanc-Bird pushed for answers, he said.

Holt said the defence will argue Paul LeBlanc's crimes were caused by the unreasonable expectations of a client. They will portray LeBlanc as a victim and argue he defrauded his victims because he was bullied by the late Norman LeBlanc, said Holt. 

"Take note of that your honour. Who are the victims? Norman and his family."

Patricia LeBlanc-Bird and her sister Ann LeBlanc thought they would be getting an inheritance in the millions when their father died, and "lived thinking they were financially secure," said Holt. Instead, they have debt.

'Mouse on a wheel'

Michael Crystal, Paul LeBlanc's lawyer, says he plans to call nine witnesses during the sentencing hearing. (Michel Nogue/Radio Canada)

Defence lawyer Michael Crystal said his client was in a bullying relationship with Norman LeBlanc.

Even as a vice-president of the largest Acadian financial institution in the country, he was at LeBlanc's beck and call, argued Crystal.

"He was virtually a mouse on a wheel," he said, as LeBlanc, who was seated beside him, sporting a grey suit, listened, often with his chin resting on his hand.

Crystal called three of his nine witnesses Wednesday. Louis Malenfant, Denis Losier and Larry Boudreau all spoke of LeBlanc's ambition and trustworthiness.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Thursday morning.