An Okanagan-area social worker accused of stealing money from foster children is now facing criminal charges.
Kelowna RCMP began its investigation into Robert Riley Saunders back in March of 2018, while he was still employed with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
It’s alleged Saunders had moved children in government care from stable homes in order to make them eligible for financial benefits from the province, before stealing those government funds.
Saunders, who was believed to be working at a golf course in Alberta earlier this year, was recently arrested in that province and is being brought back to B.C. to appear before a Kelowna Provincial Court next week.
Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said the investigation was long and laborious and was led by the fraud section of the serious crime unit.
The BC Prosecution Service confirmed Friday (Dec. 4) the approval of 13 charges against Saunders including 10 counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust and one count of uttering a forged document.
Aside from criminal charges, Saunders – as well as the ministry – are also at the centre of a class-action lawsuit led by former youth in care in B.C.
Statements of claim accuse Saunders of stealing the funds deposited into accounts of those youth, leaving the foster children homeless and subject to physical and sexual abuse, as well as vulnerable to addiction.
In October, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross approved a settlement for more than 100 people.
The notice of settlement says each member will get a basic $25,000 payment and those who are Indigenous will get an additional $44,000.
Further damages could be paid to those who experienced homelessness, psychological harm, sexual exploitation, injury, or whose education was delayed, the settlement says.
Saunders was hired by the ministry in 1996 and transferred to Kelowna in 2001. He was fired in 2018.