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Hamilton prosecutor lashes out at lax rules, tells Hungary ‘We don’t want your criminals’

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Címkék:  canada, Hamilton, refugee
 23th of January 2012   Source: thespec.com


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The public needs to be aware of flaws in Canada’s refugee and welfare systems that allowed a group of Hungarian Roma criminals to live in Hamilton and get paid for it, says the lead prosecutor of an ongoing human trafficking case.

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“Disgusting, stunning, shocking, I just don’t have the words to describe,” assistant Crown attorney Toni Skarica said in court.

He made the statement during a court appearance for Viktoria Nemes, the 45-year-old wife and mother of accused human traffickers. She pleaded guilty Friday to welfare fraud.

She has been in custody since early December and will be deported this month.

Nemes came to Hamilton, from Hungary, in December 2008 and soon after misled authorities into believing she and her husband had separated and that she was a single mom, court heard.

In total, she and her husband are believed to have defrauded the City of Hamilton out of nearly $50,000.

“We lost $50,000 paying criminals,” Skarica said.

But Nemes’ case is about a much larger issue, he added.

The “bizarre” criminal justice system in Hungary allows a person who has been found guilty of a crime to return home, before returning to jail, he said, adding that this “is almost designed for criminals to flee somewhere else.”

That is just what Nemes did.

But when she arrived in Canada and claimed refugee status because she is a Roma, no warrant appeared when the Canada Border Services Agency searched her name. Documents presented in court proved she also told authorities she didn’t have a criminal record.

In fact, she is wanted in Hungary for five felony related offences. She had been convicted to serve two years and six months in jail, Skarica said.

It wasn’t until May of 2010 — 18 months after she arrived in Canada and began receiving Ontario Works benefits — that Hungarian authorities notified local authorities about Nemes’ criminal past.

She continued to fraudulently receive benefits until October.

“It’s shocking that this continued to go one for years and years and years,” Skarica said.

He called Ontario Works boss Gary Brown and Canada Border Services Agency officer Deborah Kerr “heroes” for uncovering the welfare fraud in the middle of the human trafficking investigation. Both sat in the courtroom Friday.

A victim impact statement on behalf of Ontario Works said that in Hamilton “each month, on average $255,000 is lost to those that fraudulently obtain funds.”

Part of the alleged Hungary to Hamilton human trafficking ring was to coach victims into claiming refugee status and then claiming Ontario Works, with benefits going to the alleged traffickers.

At one point, Skarica said he wanted to send a message back to Hungary. “We don’t want your criminals.”

After passionately detailing the crimes, Ontario Court Justice Timothy Culver questioned why the Crown was asking for a sentence of time served (and immediate deportation), instead of more jail time. Skarica answered that he didn’t want Canadian taxpayers on the hook for any more.

Defence lawyer John Abrams didn’t speak specifically to what Nemes admits to have done, but said generally that Canada does accept refugee claimants with criminal records, and that Roma people are known to be persecuted in Hungary.

“Hopefully, there are ways to make the system more watertight,” he said.



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