Saskatchewan

Alena Pastuch appeals fraud conviction, 7-year prison sentence

Alena Pastuch was convicted of defrauding investors of $5.5 million. She was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay it back. Now, she's asking for a new trial.

Pastuch ordered to pay back $5.5M to defrauded investors

Alena Pastuch was convicted of defrauding investors of $5.5 million. The alleged fraud involved 80 victims and happened between 2007 and 2009. (CBC)

Alena Pastuch has asked Saskatchewan's highest court to toss out her seven-year prison sentence and grant her a new trial by jury.

The 54-year-old was convicted in June of defrauding about 80 investors of a combined $5.5 million. At the sentencing hearing last week, Court heard that Pastuch sold people on child protection software, but instead used the money to live a lavish life. 

The majority of victims were reportedly unsophisticated investors who were elderly or related to Pastuch. Court heard one couple was defrauded of $1.2 million, with the rest of investors losing thousands. 

Justice Richard Elson oversaw the trial, which lasted about five months at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. In addition to the seven-year sentence, he ordered Pastuch to pay the money back within 12 years or her release or face more prison time.  

Alleging miscarriage of justice, error in fact and law 

Pastuch filed a handwritten list of reasons as to why the conviction, sentence and restitution order should be overturned — many of them focusing on Elson's conduct. 

"Justice Elson's demeanour and comments throughout the trial demonstrated his bias and his favouring the prosecution," Pastuch's submission said. 

She said he "intervened excessively in the proceedings to the point where a reasonable person observing the trial would think that the accused did not have a fair trial," and that his comments and tone were inappropriate and abusive. 

She said Elson commented on his opinions as to the guilt of the accused throughout the trial and prior to the defence. Furthermore, she accused Elson of making, "visible insulting gestures during accused's cross-examination of witnesses." 

She said her decision not to testify was a direct result of the trial judge's comments and actions toward her. 

Pastuch said both Crown prosecutor Dana Brule and Elson made, "insulting, demeaning and belittling comments about the accused." She said the Crown, "repeatedly mocked, laughed at and humiliated the accused's disability and/or its symptoms." 

She also said that Brule allowed his witnesses to make "perjurious, false and misleading statements to the court." 

Argues for healing lodge 

Elson recommended that Pastuch serve a portion of her sentence at the regional psychiatric facility in Saskatoon. 

She argued that a healing lodge would be more appropriate to treat her "disability of complex post traumatic stress." She said time at the psychiatric facility, "would be extremely harmful and detrimental to [her] mental health stability."

Pastuch said she wants a new trial, this time by jury, and that she is seeking legal representation. She was ordered to represent herself at trial after going through multiple lawyers. 

In her appeal notice, Pastuch said she did not understand some of the charges against her and could not understand the financial evidence which made it impossible to defend herself fully.

About the Author

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer began her journalism career in print as a newspaper reporter in Saskatoon and then as a feature writer in Bangkok. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in 2016. Latimer shares stories on web, radio and television. Contact her: kendall.latimer@cbc.ca