Scene from The Matrix
Credits: QMI AGENCY
Clarke Webster, 63, and his wife Mary Margaret, 61, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and were sentenced to one-year and six-month conditional sentences respectively.
Together, they were fined $342,407 - every penny of the unpaid taxes from 2004 to 2009 on income from Clarke Webster's dental practice and his wife's salary as office manager.
"This was out-and-out fraud on the taxpayers. It was motivated by greed," Judge Charles Hackland told them, adding that it's "particularly disgraceful" when perpetrated by a member of a "distinguished profession with all the privileges, including education, funded by taxes you were trying to evade."
The Websters were followers of Russ Porisky, a Chilliwack, BC man sentenced to 4 ½ years behind bars for helping followers evade an estimated $11.5 million in taxes with his "natural person theory."
His Paradigm Education Group put on seminars claiming that taxing people is unconstitutional so the government created a parallel legal system. Similar to the plot in the 1999 film The Matrix, citizens can "awaken" to the "illusion" and avoid paying taxes if they simply choose not to, according to the scheme.
The Websters paid $31,200 and a share of the taxes they evaded - up to 10% - to their Paradigm "educator" Lee Williams, who gave Porisky a cut.
Williams - who helped his students defraud the government of an estimated $4.5 million between 2003 and 2008 - was sentenced in November to five years behind bars. His wife, dentist Tania Kovaluk, got 2 1/2 years for evading almost $1 million in taxes.
The Websters completely renounce Porisky's "cockamamie" scheme and take full responsibility for what they did, lawyer Leonard Shore said.
Married 41 years and grandparents, they were looking forward to a comfortable future.
Instead, Clarke Webster spent three months, his wife two weeks, in a "harsh and inhumane" lockup and await an eviction notice.
"Why intelligent, educated folks would would fall prey to this kind of a plan or scheme is baffling," Shore said. "There is a perfect Yiddish word for this - it's farcockt, a harebrained scheme, ill-advised with no chance of success."