MONTREAL – An influential former Quebec union boss was found guilty on Friday of fraud and forging documents stemming from inflated expense claims.
Jocelyn Dupuis was accused of charging the Quebec Federation of Labour for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses by using fake or inflated bills. He argued at his trial he was paying for union business out of pocket and that the bills reflected that.
Quebec court Judge Denis Lavergne found him guilty of all the charges, saying the Crown’s evidence was “solid, thorough and overwhelming.”
Lavergne noted the accused’s suggestion that he filed the expenses with the blessing of his union “defies common sense, logic and reason,” especially given the absence of any documented evidence the union had any budget specifically for this.
Asking why someone would need to falsify receipts for reimbursements they were already entitled to, Lavergne came to this conclusion: “No witness can provide a rational answer to this inconsistency because there just isn’t any.”
Neither Dupuis nor his lawyer spoke to reporters Friday.
The trial heard that Dupuis was the only union representative who didn’t use a credit card issued by the labour group.
“I always thought that it made absolutely no sense to bill a trade union in 2008, thousands and thousands of dollars in meals by simply filing small scraps of paper,” said Crown prosecutor Jacques Dagenais.
“It’s a bit strange to come up with an excuse like that for a wealthy trade union where you have a (petty cash) system.”
Dupuis was a key leader in the labour federation’s construction wing, serving as director-general between 1997 and 2008.
The charges related to claims made between December 2007 and November 2008, a period during which Dupuis filed 43 expense accounts totalling $225,000.
During the trial, provincial police witnesses testified that 144 bills were suspect, representing more than $63,000.
Of those, half were fake bills with no verifiable transaction record available, police said.
The other half were allegedly inflated, with investigators having tracked down original receipts they said were far less than what was billed for.
The majority of the expenses were for lavish restaurant meals and expensive bottles of wine.
Dupuis didn’t hesitate to order $300 or $400 bottles of wine at restaurants.
In one instance, he claimed $1,500 for a meal when the bill was $1,100. The meal was on a Sunday in December when the construction wing was closed for the holidays.
In another, during a union trip to California and Las Vegas in March 2008, Dupuis claimed $7,800 for four meals for which he did have proper receipts.
Dupuis also allegedly ran up $7,000 in expenses in one particular week — $4,600 in restaurant meals, $1,800 in hotels and $510 for 1,400 kilometres worth of mileage, even though there is no evidence he ever left Montreal during those seven days.
Dupuis had suggested the inflated expenses were for the benefit of the workers he represented. Some former colleagues testified they approved of his practices because Dupuis often paid union expenses out of pocket.
His lawyer argued there was no fraud and no malice and that the amounts he received ultimately made their way back to the membership.
But the judge rejected the notion it was commonly known among union brass that Dupuis was paying for union matters out of pocket.
The case returns to court on Oct. 21 for the sentencing phase.
If they can’t come up with a common suggestion, sentencing won’t take place until 2015.