KELOWNA – The second of two Okanagan women who helped hundreds of people defraud the federal government of millions of dollars in income taxes between 2007 and 2012 was sentenced to 33 months behind bars in Kelowna Supreme Court today.
This past summer, a Supreme Court jury found Donna Marie Stancer, 64, and her business partner and friend Deanna Lavalley, 54, guilty of four counts of fraud, including encouraging clients to claim personal expenses such as credit card debt as business losses.
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.
Stancer and Lavalley filed 363 returns for DeMara clients, 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 five years in prison.
Stancer’s defence lawyer Michael Newcombe wanted Justice 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, 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 and sentenced to 18 months in jail for making false statements to the federal government. Together with her husband they filed expenses for nonexistent investments in an equine business in Vernon.
Newcombe says despite her client's experience and history, Stancer was duped at a seminar in Alberta into believing The Remedy was legal and she should therefore be spared jail.
Crown lawyer Jessica 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.”
At her sentencing today, Jan. 14, Justice Allison Beames said Stancer knew what she was doing was illegal and deliberately obfuscated the evidence, tried to pass blame to others and is not genuinely remorseful.
“Only Miss Stancer had the full picture,” she said. “She was the marketer, she was the face-to-face person in meetings and presentations. She claimed an experience and in fact had a history working for the Canada Revenue Agency.”
In addition to the 33 month jail term Stancer was fined $62,980.
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— This story was changed at 9 a.m. to change the sentence sought by crown from four years to five.