Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Property owner to repay flood cash

Given six-month conditional sentence

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A Rossendale man who bilked Manitoba taxpayers out of flood disaster-assistance cash won't see jail time but must pay back much of the thousands he pocketed.

Wayne Ostopowich, 61, was sentenced Friday in provincial court to a six-month conditional jail term.

The sentence lets him skirt serving time behind bars for crimes of fraud over $5,000 and false pretences.

In the spring of 2005, Ostopowich's home and farmland were damaged by spring flooding, and he applied for disaster-assistance funds from Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO).

'It's time he turned his attention to making reparations for his 15-month period of criminal behaviour'

-- Judge Carena Roller on Wayne Ostopowich

He was required to submit invoices by an Oct. 31, 2006, deadline for supplies and services relating to the damage, for which he'd be refunded 80 per cent, Judge Carena Roller said.

Ostopowich submitted 10 false invoices worth $77,458 over a 15-month period and pocketed $55,504 to which he had no right, Roller said.

It was a "significant fraud" against Manitoba taxpayers, she said.

A Canada Revenue Agency investigation brought the case to light, said Roller.

Roller noted Ostopowich hasn't paid back a nickel of what he took, despite nearly a decade passing.

That's despite his owning 12,000 acres of farmland, a busy and successful landscaping business and a vacation home near Clear Lake, she said.

"It's time he turned his attention to making reparations for his 15-month period of criminal behaviour," said Roller.

Ostopowich told a probation officer he'd used the money for legitimate purposes, but just not in the time frame set out by his EMP agreement.

He also said provincial officials never physically inspected his property.

Roller accused him of "blaming the victim."

She ordered him to repay $1,000 a month over the life of his conditional sentence and a 12-month period of probation that follows.

The remainder will become a stand-alone restitution order.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2014 A12

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