Ottawa

Former church treasurer sentenced in 'sad' fraud case

The former treasurer of an Ottawa church has been sentenced to two years in prison and three years of probation for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the congregation.

Bart Burron gets 2 years in prison for embezzling $607K from St. Luke Lutheran Church

Bart Burron was volunteer treasurer at St. Luke Lutheran Church in New Edinburgh. (Felix Desroches/CBC )

The former treasurer of an Ottawa church has been sentenced to two years in prison and three years of probation for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the congregation.

Bart Burron, 73, was convicted of fraud in April for embezzling more than $600,000 from St. Luke Lutheran Church in New Edinburgh, money he planned to use to pay off a failed real estate venture.

On Friday, Burron was ordered to pay $1,000 per month in restitution for the three years he's on probation. He has already repaid about $117,000 as a result of a civil case, and will owe the the balance — about $454,000 — after he's served his sentence.

That will likely mean Burron will be in debt to the church for the rest of his life, Justice Matthew Webber said. Webber also acknowledged the significant financial and emotional impact on the church as a result of the fraud, and said Burron would have likely continued to siphon money from the church's accounts if he hadn't been caught.

'For the congregation it's been difficult,' Rev. Bryan King said after the sentencing hearing. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Burron apologizes

After his sentencing, Burron told the court he was "sorry for everything that happened."

About a dozen parishioners attended the hearing. 

"For the congregation it's been difficult.... It's taken a lot out of our congregation, but the congregation's doing fine," Rev. Bryan King said after the hearing.

They feel very sad for him that this happened, for him and for everybody involved.- Rev. Bryan King

"We at St. Luke regarded [Burron] as a friend. He started attending there in the mid-'80s and had spent a lot of time there, and people are very sad. They feel very sad for him that this happened, for him and for everybody involved."

Burron's lawyer, Bruce Engel, said his client will not appeal the sentence. 

"This is an interesting type of case because even though we went to trial, you know, there was never an issue with respect to his responsibility, the errors in judgment. It was just whether or not that can be characterized as criminal. And he was contrite throughout. He was apologetic, openly apologetic at the end, and it's one of these sad cases for everybody," Engel said.

Bruce Engel and Nadia Mian, co-counsel for the defence, and Rev. Bryan King of St. Luke Lutheran Church said the sentence was fair, though the case was sad for everyone involved. 0:45

Failed condo scheme

Burron won't be allowed to seek employment or volunteer in a role where he's responsible for finances for 10 years.

Burron, a chartered accountant who worked for the federal auditor general, spent three decades volunteering as treasurer at St. Luke, where he managed investments and had sole signing authority over the church's financial accounts. 

The court heard that beginning in 2009, Burron began stealing from the church to build and sell luxury condos, and planned to use his earnings to fund his retirement. Over four years, he falsified accounts and siphoned $607,000 from the church to fund the scheme, which ultimately failed.

To stave off bankruptcy, the church decided to sell its manse, where King lived for 25 years.

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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