Sudbury·Updated

Atlas Copco fraudsters sentenced to 'long' jail terms, ordered to pay back millions

More than a decade after they first began overbilling Atlas Copco for its employee benefits, eventually stealing a total of $24 million, Paul Caron and Dirk Plate are set to spend their first night in jail Tuesday.

72-year-old Paul Caron and 72-year-old Dirk Plate were convicted of fraud in a $24M overbilling scheme

The lawyers for Steve Wright are arguing that 20 years of news coverage of the Renee Sweeney make it impossible for him to have a fair trial in Sudbury. (Erik White/CBC)

More than a decade after they first began overbilling Atlas Copco for its employee benefits, eventually stealing a total of $24 million, Paul Caron and Dirk Plate are set to spend their first night in jail Tuesday.

The two 72-year-old men were sentenced earlier today by Justice J.S. Poupore and led from the Sudbury courtroom in handcuffs.

Caron, the Montreal insurance broker who looked after the mining company's benefit program, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $10 million to Atlas Copco within 10 years of his release from prison or face another jail term.
Montreal insurance broker Paul Caron, 72, has been sentenced to 6.5 years in jail and ordered to re-pay $10 million. (Erik White/CBC )

Earlier in the day, Caron, who acted as his own lawyer, asked the court for compassion, while continuing to downplay his role in the fraud scheme.

"I didn't know how to blow the whistle," Caron told the court, his voice cracking.

"I'm totally ashamed of it. I sincerely apologize."

But Justice Poupore described him as the "mastermind" of the fraud scheme, which involved Caron and three Atlas Copco employees.

One of them was Dirk Plate, the 72-year-old former manager of the Sudbury office, who was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to repay $77,000, plus the $1.4 million in retirement annuities purchased for him with the stolen money. 

Ralph Steinberg, the lawyer for Dirk Plate, argued his client was not directly involved in the scheme and described his role as "passive acquiescence" and "almost analogous to willful blindness."

But Poupore disagreed with that description.

"He knew of and participated in a fraudulent scheme against his employer. He was in a position to bring it to a grinding halt," the judge said.

The Sudbury office of Atlas Copco, where the $24 million fraud was perpetrated from between 2002 and 2007. (CBC/Yvon Theriault)

Crown Attorney Philip Zylberberg says that along with the money owed to Atlas Copco, a "debt is owed to society" which is why he argued that each man should be jailed for eight years.

"This is how we denounce, this is how we deter," he told the court, while describing the fraud as a "large scale display of greed."

"So the next person in their position understands there is a price to pay."

The other two men involved were Atlas Copco's Montreal-based human resources manager Leo Caron who pleaded guilty in 2013 and was sentenced to five years in jail, along with the former Sudbury office financial manager David Hillier, who avoided being charged by returning the $400,000 he says he stole and agreeing to testify against his conspirators.

David Hillier was the financial manager in the Atlas Copco office in Sudbury between 2002 and 2006. (Erik White/CBC)

Guilty verdict in $24M Atlas Copco fraud trial

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