"SHE WAS THE FACE, THE VOICE AND THE BRAIN BEHIND (THE SCHEME)."
KELOWNA – The woman who helped hundreds of people defraud the government of millions of dollars in taxes between 2007 and 2012 claims she is the victim and begged the judge not to send her to jail.
This summer, a Supreme Court jury found Donna Marie Stancer, 64, and her partner and friend Deanna Lavalley, 54, guilty of three counts of fraud, including encouraging clients to claim personal expenses such as credit card debt as business losses. At her sentencing Tuesday, Dec. 15 she read a written statement saying she was only trying to help others by teaching them what she thought was a loophole in the system she called 'The Remedy.'
“I’ve been a victim my whole life,” she said. “I know that hasn’t come out really well in the trial. At the time I thought I was helping people. I was convinced to do this. I was in a very vulnerable and depressed situation. As a victim I wasn’t making proper choices in my life.”
In 2009, Stancer and Lavalley created a company called DeMara Tax Consultants. Both women have worked in accounting in the past, with Stancer claiming she has 25 years of experience filing taxes. Two of those years were with the Canada Revenue Agency.
"I just wish the CRA had come to me earlier and said don't do this. I would have stopped," she said. "I’m really sorry. I don’t think going to jail is going to make any difference except for media publicity against me.”
Together as DeMara, Stancer and Lavalley filed 363 returns, including 223 claims of false losses for previous years. The result was a total of $193 million in claims for $9.9 million in refunds to which clients were not entitled.
Of their 224 clients, 206 faced gross negligence penalties in amounts up to $2.5 million forcing 55 of them to declare bankruptcy. One of their clients, a nurse, was penalized $500,000.
Last month, Lavalley was sentenced to 22 months of house arrest for her role as office manager and assistant but Crown lawyer Jessica Patterson says Stancer deserves four years in prison.
Stancer’s defence lawyer Michael Newcombe wants Justice Allison Beames to sentence her to two years to be served in the community but Patterson says her time should be spent behind bars as an example for others.
“It is clear (Stancer) was the mastermind,” Patterson said in Kelowna Supreme Court today, Dec. 15. “She actually knew that The Remedy was illegal and proceeded in any event. She was the face, the voice and the brain behind DeMara.”
Stancer has a criminal record going back to 1989 when she was convicted of making false statements to the federal government. Together with her husband they filed expenses for nonexistent investments in an equine business in Vernon.
She was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
Newcombe says despite her experience and history, Stancer was duped at a seminar in Alberta into believing The Remedy was legal and she should therefore be spared jail.
“She has always maintained she was trying to help people, not line her own pockets,” he said. “The whole setup of DeMara was open…. It was not surreptitious in any way.”
Patterson however, described her actions as “predatory.”
“It’s not a case of simply not paying your taxes or counselling others to not file taxes,” she said. “She actually knew that The Remedy was illegal and proceeded in any event.”
Justice Beames has delayed sentencing until Jan. 14, 2016.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.