A Nova Scotia woman alleged to be the ringleader of a multimillion-dollar tax scheme told a judge Friday that she, her two sisters and their mother are not criminals, but rather dessert-baking housewives who were set up by employees from the Canada Revenue Agency.
Georgette Young and her sisters, Nadia Saker and Angela MacDonald, along with their mother, Lydia Saker, are facing 30 charges, including fraud.
Young, 49, spent about 14 minutes delivering closing arguments Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, telling Justice Robin Gogan there is no truth to allegations that she and her family members attempted to defraud the federal government of $3.6 million.
"It is simply not so," said Young. "We are people with integrity and pride — housewives who make cupcakes, certainly not gangsters or fraudsters."
Young said federal prosecutors are relying on "circumstantial evidence and other theories" to prove their case.
The women have been on trial for more than a month and are representing themselves, despite the judge's caution that they should at least consider legal advice.
Women critical of evidence
According to allegations outlined in search warrant records, the women and 10 companies under their control claimed $56 million in sales on products such as cookbooks, salad dressings, frozen dinners and children's fur coats. The CRA has accused the women of inflating sales and operating expenses in order to receive higher GST and HST refunds.
At least three of the women were paid $276,000, according to court documents, but were denied another $3 million after CRA auditors became suspicious.
Young told the court that PDF documents brought forward in their case can easily be changed. She suggested that tax filing documents may have also been stolen out of her mailbox.
"I did research, too, an HST filing rebate comes in an envelope," she said. "You go on ... net files ... on the computer.
"Anybody who has this envelope can make this refund."
The defendants also criticized the memory of retired CRA auditor Carol Power, who testified that Nadia Saker had said receipts from her business had been destroyed by a flood.
Throughout her testimony, Power referred to work notes that she said were part of a continuous diary from conversations with the women during her audit work.
Young said the women are suspicious of the Crown's inability to produce handwritten notes Power took during an in-person interview with them, and questioned whether the interview even happened.
She also accused Power, who lives in St. John's, of teaming up with Michael Boudreau, an investigator with the federal agency in Halifax.
Young offered no suggestions as to why they would do that, other than she believed the pair had known each other for a long time.
"Mr. Boudreau and Carol Power worked together to make up this fictional event that never happened, but why?" she said.
Testimony from the two CRA employees has suggested they did not know each other.
Crown lawyer Constantin Draghici-Vasilescu said about 100 tax submissions were made over the course of the 4½-year investigation, and most were made online.
He told the judge that no missing envelopes were reported and that electronic reporting requires login information and a passcode.
Draghici-Vasilescu questioned why the women had received tax credit refund cheques they were not entitled to. He also said if the women wished to refute any conversations made with a CRA auditor, they could have testified in their own defence.
The women did not call any defence witnesses when the opportunity arose.
Gogan is expected to deliver a verdict on Oct. 29.
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