Saskatoon

Former Whitecap Dakota accountant Hugo Gallegos headed to prison

Former Whitecap Dakota First Nation accountant Hugo Gallegos is going to prison for five years, after being sentenced in court in Saskatoon this morning.

Gallegos will serve 5 years for stealing $5.8 million

Former Whitecap Dakota First Nation accountant Hugo Gallegos is going to prison for five years after being sentenced in court in Saskatoon this morning.

It is another step forward.- Whitecap Dakota Chief Darcy Bear

Earlier this month, Gallegos pleaded guilty to stealing $5.8 million from the band. He had been charged with six counts of fraud.

It was standing room only in the court as members of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation gathered to learn the fate of the former accountant.

"It's something our community's been looking forward to," Whitecap Dakota Chief Darcy Bear said at an earlier court date.

"Certainly, it is another step forward."   

Sentencing began with prosecutor Robin Ritter detailing the Crown's case against Gallegos.

The Crown argued that the ex-Whitecap Dakota First Nation accountant stole $5.8 million from the band between January 2009 and July 2013 by writing 1,785 cheques to himself.

Ritter went on to paint a portrait of an out of control accountant who liked to gamble, travel to Las Vegas and spend lavishly on designer clothing.

The Crown stated that Gallegos spent more than $100,000 on clothes in one Saskatoon menswear store. A search of a storage locker uncovered hundreds of pairs of high-end designer shoes meticulously organized in individual Tupperware containers.

The Crown wrapped up by asking the judge to send Gallegos to prison for five years.

Gallegos suffers PTSD and workplace bullying: lawyer

Hugo Gallegos, of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, has pleaded guilty to fraud charges. (Twitter)

Defence lawyer Chris Lavier painted a very different picture, one where Gallegos was not alone in his fraudulent accounting, suggesting that corruption at the First Nation is widespread.

Lavier described to the court a vulnerable man who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from experiences he lived through in El Salvador. He also described a work environment where Gallegos suffered bullying at the hands of a senior administrator at Whitecap Dakota.

This too shall pass.- Justice Richard Danyliuk 

The defence argued that Gallegos was the victim of sexual and racial discrimination being called a "faggot" and "Mexican bitch." In the end, Lavier asked that Gallegos be spared prison and instead serve his time at the Regional Psychiatric Centre.

Gallegos stood and apologized to band members in the court.

"I got caught in this craziness," he said. "I'm sorry. I didn't recognize myself.  

Justice Richard Danyliuk left the decision about where Gallegos will serve his time up to corrections officials, but sentenced him to five years in prison.

Danyliuk went on to admonish Gallegos, describing his downfall as a "journey on the road to perdition." — one marked by lying, cheating, stealing and obscene materiality.

Danyliuk also spoke about the good work being done on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, praising the gains made over the past 20 years.

"This too shall pass," the judge said.

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