Women in $3.6M fraud case say they need more time to prep closing arguments

·2 min read
Crown prosecutors Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu and Mark Donohue are shown during a break in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial that is taking place in Sydney. (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)
Crown prosecutors Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu and Mark Donohue are shown during a break in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial that is taking place in Sydney. (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)

Four Cape Breton women accused in a $3.6-million tax fraud scheme told a judge Thursday they simply weren't ready to offer a rebuttal to the Crown's case against them.

Georgette Young, Angela MacDonald, Nadia Saker, along with their mother, Lydia Saker, have pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including fraud.

The women are representing themselves at the judge-alone trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Sydney. They were expected to deliver their closing arguments Thursday afternoon.

But Young told Justice Robin Gogan that her family needs more time to deliver their closing arguments, saying they have been overwhelmed by the court process.

"I feel like I've been inundated with information. I'm too confused right now," Young said in court.

Crown wraps its case

Earlier in the day, Crown lawyers finished up their closing arguments, suggesting that Young was the family ringleader of the tax scheme.

The women told the judge they would not be calling any witnesses in their defence.

Federal prosecutor Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu said evidence shows the women acted as a group, cashing each other's cheques and sharing in the profits.

On Thursday, he clarified, saying that Lydia Saker never cashed any refund cheques. But he said that "doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that she's not involved."

Draghici-Vasilescu said the elder Saker stands alone because there is no "mountain of evidence" against her, but did not correct any inconsistencies that were presented to her during the investigation.

In an interview with an auditor from the Canada Revenue Agency, Lydia Saker is alleged to have relied on pages of notes about her hairpiece-making business, Artisan Hair Loss Therapy Inc.

In other instances, the 76-year-old relied on Young to lead the discussion.

Lydia Saker also told the CRA that her hair suppliers were in China and Italy, but the Canada Border Services Agency found no records of the company importing anything. The Crown said the business reported $1.4 million in sales in the first half of 2015 alone.

The CRA alleges the women's scheme escalated in size between 2011 and 2015, and involved a slew of fake invoices, expense reports and sales records.

The women are alleged to have submitted records on behalf of 10 companies under their control, which show a total of $56 million in sales from products such as cookbooks, salad dressings, wigs, frozen food and children's fur coats.

The Crown said it was all a fictional story put forward in an attempt to fool the CRA into giving them money.

"There's no reality to that — there is not a conceptual universe in which that is a reality, " Draghici-Vasilescu said of their reported sales.

The women are expected to deliver their closing arguments on Friday morning.

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