A former Newfoundland and Labrador government employee has been sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment for bilking more than half a million dollars from the provincial Medical Care Plan program over a four-year period.
At a sentencing hearing in Grand Falls-Windsor this week, provincial court Judge Mark Pike called it "a somewhat sophisticated scheme of deception" that was planned and deliberate.
Denise Hemeon, 53, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000. A charge of forgery was withdrawn.
Hemeon apologized for her actions.
"I'm so sorry," she told the court. "I wish I could go back and change it but I can't."
Crown lawyer Zachary Austin said it was suspected that Hemeon misappropriated 448 payments into 48 different bank accounts from five different banks, totalling $564,177.
Hemeon fabricated claims to MCP's adult dental program and opened numerous bank accounts to accept fictitious vendor payments.
In text messages she allegedly sent to her work manager, Hemeon stated she committed fraud to help her sister pay off debt.
The Crown lawyer said Hemeon carried out a "very sophisticated fraud" while occupying a position of trust.
"This involves multiple years. There were bank accounts made, MCP cards that were fabricated or numbers that were fabricated. Multiple banking institutions were used. So we would submit that this is on the fairly higher end," Austin said.
"People cannot be using their positions in government to enrich themselves or help their friends and family."
The judge said there was a "degree of complexity" to Hemeon's actions that required "certain insider knowledge" of MCP and the adult dental program.
"The only way it got detected was by pure coincidence," Pike noted.
He acknowledged that Hemeon had shown regret and remorse, had no criminal record, and is considered a low risk to reoffend.
But Pike stressed she had been in a position of public trust.
"You abused this position in order to enrich yourself and your family members," the judge told the court.
He said the length of time the scheme was carried out adds a "sinister and damaging" aspect to the matter.
Pike sentenced her to 30 months' imprisonment — the term recommended by the Crown.
Hemeon also received two years of probation and was ordered to pay $564,177 in restitution.