A Saskatchewan lawyer will serve a 90-day sentence on weekends for an elaborate fraud that involved phoney residential school survivors.
Kristian Eggum pleaded guilty Feb. 15 to one count of fraud over $5,000 that involved Indigenous inmates at two Prince Albert correctional facilities.
“He was submitting false claims – they were false in the sense that the claimants did not attend residential school,” said Crown attorney Darren Howarth, who prosecuted the case.
Eggum’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
The illegal scheme involved the Common Experience Payment (CEP) of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) and the former St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Sask.
The CEP compensated survivors or former students for being forced to attend the schools. It paid $10,000 for the first year and $3,000 for each additional year.
Applications for CEP did not require a lawyer’s help but some former students sought the help of a lawyer anyway.
Howarth said Eggum received 15 per cent per cent or $35,000 in legal fees on $233,000 in false claims.
The judge at Eggum’s Court of Queen’s Bench sentencing ordered the lawyer to repay the money stolen between 2006 and 2012.
Here’s how it worked:
Howarth said Eggum used “a recruiter” on commission to find claimants from all over northern Saskatchewan to make phoney claims.
Aerial view of Saskatchewan Penitentiary. (CSC file)
“A large part of the recruiting was done in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and the P.A. Pine Grove Correctional Centre (for women),” he said in a telephone interview.
“Lots were also done just on the street (including approaching) homeless people.”
Howarth said legitimate residential school survivors blew the whistle on the fakes.
“Essentially, word got around in the community that people were making applications even though they didn’t go (to residential school) and some were getting paid and some people were upset by that,” he said.
Howarth said the criminal investigation involved the RCMP in Prince Albert and the intelligence unit in Pine Grove.
He said the intelligence unit intercepted “a map and answers to questions to verify residency and how to go about completing this fraudulent application (that) was being circulated and sent to inmates via letter,” he said, “along with an upfront payment.”
While Eggum submitted a total of 800 claims for compensation as many as 50 were bogus.
“That is the most that I believe we can prove,” Howarth said.
He noted the phoney survivors were promised immunity from criminal charges to give evidence against the lawyer. He believed they would be allowed to keep the money they received.
Howarth said Eggum is now 80 years old and in the early stages of dementia. He attended court using a cane.
Eggum also faces disciplinary action from the Law Society of Saskatchewan.