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Former boss pleading guilty in native health agency fraud

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A man accused of stealing over $1-million of federal funds from an aboriginal health agency will plead guilty.

Daryl Joseph Cote will formally plead guilty to fraud this afternoon, his lawyer told a judge this morning.

Sentencing will be held later this week.

Cote was 53 when he was arrested by RCMP in 2009 and charged with two counts of theft over $5,000 and two counts of fraud over $5,000. Cote is alleged to have stolen $1,028,050 from Anishinaabe Mino-Ayaawin Inc. (AMA) between Oct. 1, 1999 and March 31, 2004. He is also alleged to have stolen $310,150 from the Dauphin River First Nation, of which he used to be the co-manager.

Ottawa gave AMA almost $57 million between 1997 and 2005, and continued to fund the agency for years, even though reviews and audits began turning up trouble as early as 1998.

Cote left AMA in 2004 and sued the company for breach of contract. AMA, in return, sued Cote in 2005, alleging he was involved in kickback schemes and improperly awarding contracts to his consulting company.

A federal audit into AMA's questionable spending was finally released in August 2007, and showed the organization misspent 11 per cent of the $56.9 million it received from Health Canada between 1997 and 2005, with money going to everything from spa pedicures to Hawaiian vacations and staff retreats in the Dominican Republic.

The agency was one of 16 pilot projects across the country to put more control over health services into the hands of native-run organizations.

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