Nova Scotia

Crown makes final submissions in multimillion-dollar tax fraud trial unfolding in N.S.

Crown prosecutors say four women charged in a multimillion-dollar tax fraud scheme made repeated attempts to fool the Canada Revenue Agency.

The 4 accused, who are representing themselves, are expected to make closing arguments once the Crown wraps up

Four Cape Breton women are charged with federal tax fraud involving 10 companies, including the former Spaghetti Benders restaurant in Boularderie, N.S. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Crown prosecutors say four women charged in a multimillion-dollar tax fraud scheme made repeated attempts to fool the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Cape Breton women — Georgette Young, Angela MacDonald, Nadia Saker, and their mother, Lydia Saker — are facing 30 charges, including fraud.

They all have pleaded not guilty and are representing themselves at the judge-alone trial taking place in Sydney, N.S.

"This isn't an accident, it's continual," prosecutor Mark Donohue said Wednesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court as part of the Crown's final submissions.

"This is how money was made over a certain [period] of time."

Auditors flagged invoices

The women are alleged to have submitted records on behalf of 10 companies under their control, which show $56 million in sales from products such as cookbooks, salad dressings, wigs, frozen food and children's fur coats.

After being flagged by auditors over questionable invoices, the women allegedly doubled down on their scheme by submitting fake invoices from businesses that never existed. 

Angela MacDonald, one of three sisters charged by the Canada Revenue Agency with fraud, authored a cookbook. (Robert Short/CBC)

A second Crown lawyer, Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu, called it a "predatory scheme."

"We haven't seen this before," he told Justice Robin Gogan. "It is a continuation of the same offence…. with the purpose of fooling [an] auditor."

Invoices, sales records faked: CRA

In November 2019, the Canada Revenue Agency charged the women with $3.6 million in fraud offences related to GST/HST refunds.

The federal agency alleged the scheme escalated in size between 2011 and 2015, and involved a slew of fake invoices, expense reports and sales records.

Georgette Young, left, and Nadia Saker at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Sydney, N.S. (CBC)

Some witnesses testified to having only a few business dealings with the women. Many other small business owners said they never heard of the accused or their companies, despite large invoices made out to them. 

Gogan asked the Crown on Wednesday what each woman had known about the business dealings.

Individual roles not known, says lawyer

Draghici-Vasilescu said evidence shows the women acted as a group, having cashed each other's cheques and shared in the profits. However, he said it's not clear what exact role each woman had in the scheme. 

The Canada Revenue Agency has said the women were paid more than $200,000 in tax refunds, but were denied another $3 million after auditors became suspicious.

Draghici-Vasilescu said the women's companies were so intertwined that "money moves continuously between businesses with absolutely no identifiable connection to economic activity."

One example was that customers' cheques from MacDonald's company, Juliette and John, were being deposited into Young's personal bank account. 

The Crown is expected to wrap up its case Thursday, at which time the women will present their closing arguments to the judge.