Saskatchewan

Trial delayed for Regina woman accused of $5M fraud

The trial for a woman accused of defrauding investors millions was supposed to beign Monday morning, but her lawyer told the judge he can no longer represent her because their relationship broke down.

Defence lawyer steps away from Alena Pastuch's case after their relationship broke down

Alena Pastuch shielding her face from cameras as she enters court at a previous appearance. (CBC)

The trial for a Regina businesswoman accused of defrauding investors millions was supposed to begin Monday morning, but the plan was derailed when Alena Pastuch's lawyer advised the court he could no longer represent her due to a breakdown in their relationship.

"I am not applying to withdraw. I am, in fact, required to withdraw," defence lawyer Cory Wilson told Justice Richard Elson at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench on Monday morning.

Pastuch is accused of defrauding investors in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia of about $5 million.

Police charged her with fraud, theft and laundering the proceeds of crime in 2014, for actions that allegedly spanned seven years.

RCMP first launched an investigation in 2010 after three separate investors filed complaints against Pastuch.

Wilson told Justice Elson that he could not disclose the nature of the relationship breakdown, but said his concerns and ethical obligations required him to step away.

The fallout between the two happened on Sept. 6, 2018, he explained, just days before the lengthy trial was scheduled to begin.

Justice Elson asked Wilson if there was any way their relationship could be repaired. 

"The breakdown is significant, that it would be inappropriate for me to continue in any manner," Wilson said.

"I understand your point," Justice Elson said, later expressing disappointment that the breakdown occurred so near to the trial date.

"That is causing us to scramble, but scramble we will."

This isn't the first delay in Pastuch's case, nor is it the first time a lawyer has stepped away. Pastuch has had dozens of court appearances and has been represented by several lawyers, including one with Saskatchewan legal aid. 

"This is a matter that's gone on, frankly, quite long enough," Justice Elson said to Pastuch.

Crown prosecutor Dana Brule opposes the "revolving door of counsel."

"It's becoming really apparent where the fault lies," Brule said.

He pointed out that the Crown has already vehemently opposed a number of adjournments.

Brule plans to call about 80 witnesses, several of whom are subpoenaed, during the trial, which is scheduled for 14 weeks.

Justice Elson adjourned the matter to Monday, when he will hear Pastuch's application for her third court-appointed counsel.

The Crown would vigorously oppose the application, said Audrey Olson, who is with Saskatchewan Court Services.

Justice Elson let out a lengthy sigh and said "that's not entirely unexpected."

But he did not want to proceed without hearing the application and will do so next Monday. 

She will have to defend herself if the application fails. 

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