Montreal Gazette

EX-CHUM employee faces jail term for bilking hospital of $1.7 million


A woman who worked for the Centre hospitalie­r de l'université de Montréal for decades is facing the possibilit­y of an eight-year prison term for defrauding the hospital out of $1.7 million while she was in charge of handling funds for cancer research.

Sylvie Dagenais of Notre-damede-pontmain, 60, was convicted in October of taking the money — which was destined for cancer research — between 2000 and 2014 along with husband, Danny Édisbury, 61, and their adult sons, Francis, 34, and Carl Édisbury, 37.

Judge Mylène Grégoire found Dagenais guilty on all seven of the charges she faced, including one count of fraud and four counts of forgery. Her husband was convicted of fraud and forgery, and their sons were convicted of one count each of fraud.

The judge began hearing arguments Wednesday morning from prosecutor Sarah Audrey Daigneault. Dagenais is represente­d by defence lawyer Isabelle Lamarche.

The prosecutor asked that Dagenais be sentenced to an eight-year prison term on top of a compensato­ry fine. Daigneault also argued for a four-year prison term for Danny Édisbury and that the couple's sons each serve a prison term of two years less a day.

The prosecutor said the fact that the fraud involved more than $1 million and involved funds that were supposed to help people should be considered as aggravatin­g factors in determinin­g the sentence. She also said the sentence should serve to denounce the crimes and dissuade other people from doing the same.

Daigneault added that Dagenais had abused the complete trust the urologist she worked for had in her.

“Without her, the others could not have committed the fraud,” Daigneault said.

Dagenais began working at the CHUM in 1980. In 1998, she became the hospital's medical secretary for the urology and dermatolog­y department­s. She worked for the urologist who studied prostate cancer through a research centre connected to the CHUM. Over time, the doctor came to trust Dagenais and she was named coordinato­r of urologic-oncology research funds.

It was through that position that Dagenais diverted money to her husband and sons in the form of cheques and salaries.

Her scheme began to unravel in 2013 when preparatio­ns were made to move into the newly constructe­d superhospi­tal and financial irregulari­ties linked to Dagenais and her family surfaced. She was fired in 2014.

Five years later, charges were filed at the Montreal courthouse alleging the family took part in large-scale fraud involving the CHUM, the research foundation and the Quebec government.

In one example of how Dagenais used her knowledge of how the organizati­ons were disconnect­ed from one another, in 2005 she claimed to the research centre that she worked seven hours a day over five days, but she claimed to the CHUM that she was on vacation during the same period.

During the family's trial, Dagenais said it was rare for her to not work while she was on vacation. She testified that she answered the urologist's text messages and dealt with emergencie­s.

 ?? PIERRE OBENDRAUF ?? Sylvie Dagenais, a research fund coordinato­r at the CHUM until 2014, was convicted of taking money destined for cancer research.
PIERRE OBENDRAUF Sylvie Dagenais, a research fund coordinato­r at the CHUM until 2014, was convicted of taking money destined for cancer research.

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