Computer consultant who defrauded city sentenced to 30 months in prison

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According to previous decisions rendered in the case, the scheme concocted by Parent and Bissonnette defrauded the city of Montreal out of more than $4 million.

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A computer consultant who defrauded the City of Montreal of millions of dollars, with the help of a former city manager, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Wednesday.

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The case against Benoît Bissonnette, 59, began more than a decade ago and ended in a courtroom on the third floor of the Montreal courthouse, with Bissonnette handcuffed and taken into custody.

In December, he ended his third trial in the case by pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. At his first trial, Bissonnette was acquitted by a jury on December 5, 2015, after testifying in his own defense and denying any wrongdoing.

The Quebec Court of Appeal ordered a second trial and it ended in a mistrial on August 19, 2020, after the Crown referred to evidence previously ruled inadmissible.

On Wednesday, Quebec Superior Court Judge Mario Longpre agreed with a joint sentencing recommendation made to him in December by prosecutor Mathieu Longpre and defense attorney Marc Labelle.

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Gilles Parent, the former director of information technology for the City of Montreal, was accused in the same case. He pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy on October 1, 2012. Parent was sentenced to six years in prison and was granted parole in 2015 while the jury in Bissonnette’s first trial was still deliberating.

When Bissonnette pleaded guilty, he admitted that he and Parent conspired to defraud the city of Montreal during a period from December 1, 2006 to September 30, 2008.

According to previous decisions rendered in the case, the scheme concocted by Parent and Bissonnette generated more than $4 million. This included $3.8 million for work that was never done. More than 75% of the money was found in bank accounts in Hong Kong.

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While summarizing the evidence in the Bissonnette case, Justice Longpré said the two men used the identity of a third party to create a company called Société Forté. Parent and Bissonnette secretly owned the shares of the company while Bissonnette handled the day-to-day administration.

The judge’s decision also describes how Société Forté was used to bill three other companies that had contracts with the city of Montreal for more than $1 million. The same company was used to bill the city directly for $3.5 million.

The joint submission on sentence did not call on Longpré to order Bissonnette to repay his ill-gotten gains. But the Crown noted that Bissonnette, his wife and parents were ordered, in a civil case, to return $2.4 million.

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“The accused maintains that he is completely ruined and that his residence is the subject of various seizure warrants. Although he appealed the civil judgment, he still remains at the residence with his wife. No refund has been made to date by the defendant,” Longpré noted as he read his decision.

The judge also said he could have “imposed a much harsher sentence if he had only had to weigh the aggravating factors in Bissonnette’s case against the mitigating factors.”

“Let us remember that the fundamental principle of sentencing is proportionality between the seriousness of the offense and the degree of responsibility of the offender,” he said. “The court must also take into account the considerations that led the parties to agree on the joint proposal. It is important to note, as the Supreme Court of Canada has already recognized[…]that the negotiating parties are confident that the joint suggestion will be respected, unless the proposed sanction is likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute or if it is otherwise contrary to the public interest.

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  1. Defense lawyer Marc Labelle in 2019.

    30 months in prison suggested for a consultant who defrauded the City of Montreal

  2. Nothing

    Trial of man accused of defrauding the city of Montreal ends in a mistrial

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