Little Jaida Cumberland died April 29 after a life-long struggle with illness. The Crown says a man named Adam Gour found her story in a local newspaper in Alliston, ON and used her story and photos to start up a fundraising telephone and collection box scheme without her family even knowing about it.
Credits: FILE PHOTO
Adam Gour, of North Bay, ON, was found guilty last June of defrauding the people of Ontario after he raised at least $450,000 in cash boxes with less than 1% going to actual charity.
In his finding of guilt, Justice John McIsaac made a precedent-setting ruling that all charities must inform the public about how their money is being spent.
"On the scale of fraud, this one is heinous," Crown attorney Kate Wright said at the sentencing hearing. "He used dying, sick and disabled children and pulled at the heart strings of the believing public."
The Crown wants Gour to go to jail, not only for the fraud, but she also wants the judge to order him to pay back up to $250,000 to the public.
During his trial, court heard Gour hired a team of people to travel to various cities, including North Bay, Sudbury, Ottawa and Alliston, to work the cash boxes in large stores using the pictures of local sick children.
Volunteers testified they would rake in as much as $1,000 a day and were paid hotel, meals and travel expenses plus fat bonuses while Gour kept 35% of the take for himself. Sometimes the cash boxes were cracked open at the end of the day and cleaned out without even being counted, court heard.
"It's egregious," said Wright, who noted respected charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society suffer at the hands of "fly by night" charity scams. However the judge questioned whether anyone really knows if other charities operate in similar ways.
"Maybe the Cancer Society does the same thing -- I don't know," said McIsaac.
Defence lawyer Sam Goldstein agreed, arguing it's no big deal for charities to keep large portions of the money.
"Charities are a business in the sense that they have expenses," said Goldstein. "My client has a right to make a living."
Outside of court, the mother of a little girl, Jaida Cumberland, who was used as one of Gour's poster children before she died of a rare illness at a Toronto hospital last year, wiped a tear.
"These kids were all that was pure and good," said Helen Sykes. "That they were used and exploited in this scheme is heartbreaking."
The sentencing hearing continues Nov. 2.