Mike Duffy billed taxpayers “inappropriate” costs for attending funerals, the RCMP allege in new court documents that also accuse the suspended senator of diverting money to fund “illegitimate expenses” such as a makeup artist.
The PEI politician is facing 31 criminal charges laid July 17 by the RCMP, who have accused the Conservative appointee to the Red Chamber of misspending. His first court appearance is Sept. 16, but a trial could take until the fall of 2015 to begin.
On Monday, the RCMP offered more details on these charges in an Ottawa court filing, and the documents show the Mounties have flagged five of Mr. Duffy’s expense claims for attending funerals “and related ceremonies” between April 10, 2009, and March 2, 2012.
These claims “contain false or misleading information,” the court filing says. It’s not clear precisely which expenses the RCMP are targeting, but current Senate rules say a senator may only claim travel expenses for attending the funerals of dignitaries, senior government officials, parliamentary colleagues and other VIPs.
In Monday’s court filing, the Mounties allege Mr. Duffy committed fraud by “awarding consulting contracts in favour of Gerald Donohue,” a friend. They also accuse the senator of taking public money earmarked to be paid to Mr. Donohue and instead funnelling it to three other individuals for services the Mounties deem “illegitimate expenses.”
In these cases Mr. Duffy is charged with three counts of fraud not exceeding $5,000 and breach of trust.
The three included Ashley Cain, who worked for Mr. Duffy in May, 2010, but is now employed in the correspondence unit of the Prime Minister’s Office, which she joined in late 2011. One source said Ms. Cain answered e-mail and handled correspondence for Mr. Duffy back in 2010 and a second source described her as a “temp.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said this was news to them. “Ms. Cain worked for Mr. Duffy in 2010. This is the first we are learning of any of this,” Jason MacDonald, director of communications for the PMO, said.
“That said, we are not aware of anyone other than Mr. Duffy who is under investigation or who has been charged in this affair.”
The senator also hired Jacqueline Lambert, a professional makeup artist, in 2010, the RCMP said. Ms. Lambert, whom Mr. Duffy would have known when he worked as a journalist at CTV, said her work for Mr. Duffy was pretty simple. “I did a makeup job. I got paid. That’s all,” she said, adding that the RCMP gave her only last-minute notice that she would be mentioned in the court filings, “like half an hour before the phone started ringing.”
The third individual was Mike Croskery, the Mounties said. The RCMP didn’t explain what work he performed and Mr. Croskery couldn’t be reached for comment, but a source familiar with the matter said he was hired to work on a fitness project designed for Canada’s aging population.
The total charges Mr. Duffy faces include 15 counts of fraud for amounts totalling more than $200,000, 15 counts of breach of trust and one count of bribery. The senator maintains his innocence and said he looks forward to a fair hearing in court, where he will mount a vigorous defence.
As revealed last week, the PEI senator has been charged with bribery due to the $90,000 he received from former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright to pay back improperly claimed expenses – even though the Mounties did not charge the ex-aide for writing the cheque.
Mr. Duffy’s lawyer has threatened to drag the Prime Minister’s Office back into the matter by showing that PMO officials coerced the senator into accepting the money, which was used to reimburse taxpayers. It’s possible Mr. Harper could face pressure to give testimony, legal experts say.
The Duffy investigation began with a probe of housing allowance claims for an Ottawa home that the senator said was not his primary residence but the RCMP alleges was in fact his main dwelling.
It grew far beyond that, Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud of the RCMP’s National Division said Thursday, to include expenses charged to taxpayers for personal or party-related travel, the awarding of consultant contracts where funds were allegedly used for personal gain, and the circumstances under which the senator asked for, and received, $90,000 from Mr. Wright.