Nfld. & Labrador

Fraud, forgery charges dismissed against businesswoman Debbie McGrath

The charges stemmed from her work at Eastern Health, before she became a prominent player in the real-estate industry.

Judge rules that Crown failed to prove case beyond a reasonable doubt

Debbie McGrath appeared at provincial court in St. John's on Monday morning, where fraud-related charges against her were dismissed. (CBC)

A provincial court judge has dismissed fraud, forgery, and theft charges related to a businesswoman's work for Eastern Health before she became a prominent player in the real estate industry.

Debbie McGrath had been facing nine counts linked to her time working as an administrator for the province's Public Health Laboratory, over the period 2006 through 2012.

The Crown contended that McGrath had falsified purchase orders for payments made to her from the lab's research account for which she was not entitled.

McGrath testified that Eastern Health financial statements were incomplete, and there were other documents that could substantiate her position that payments to her, and others, were recorded in internal financial statements.

Case not proven beyond reasonable doubt

Judge Colin Flynn ruled the Crown did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"I find that the actions of Ms. McGrath with respect to payments to her for the period in question to be highly questionable, to the point of being very suspicious," Flynn noted in his decision.

"However, the destruction of many of the records of the research activities, along with the lack of clarity of recollection of a number of aspects of the process by [the director of the lab], the rather lax approach to the accounting process at that time by Eastern Health, and by Ms. McGrath, requires me to ask, based on all the evidence, 'Am I satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. McGrath did by dishonest acts defraud the Public Health Laboratory of monies?' I cannot with the degree of certainty necessary for proof beyond a reasonable doubt come to that conclusion."

The N.L. Public Health Laboratory is inside the Miller Centre in St. John's. (CBC)

Flynn also concluded that the Crown had not proven that McGrath committed fraud in relation to trips she took to Hawaii and New York.

The judge noted that McGrath was "emphatic" both trips were approved and properly charged. She said one was for technical issues related to a research project, and the other was for a conference.

In making his decision, Flynn cited problems with the recording of information at the lab, the possible loss of documentation, and McGrath's denials.

McGrath was no longer working for Eastern Health when the charges were filed against her in 2017. At that time, she was owner of real estate firm Exit Realty Oceans Edge in Bay Roberts.

She does not currently appear on the company's website, and is not listed on the province's registry of licensed real estate salespersons.

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