Judge sums up $50k theft case

After a week of hearing evidence and arguments, Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop told the six-member jury that they would have to weigh circumstantial evidence when considering the case of a government clerk accused of stealing more than $50,000 from citizenship applications.

The Crown accused Atisa Ebanks of stealing the $500 fee for naturalization in more than 100 incidents between early 2007 and March 2009.

The trial, which began a week ago, focuses on 30 charges of theft and false accounting.

Attorneys for Ebanks and the Crown made their final arguments Friday and the judge began summing up the charges and arguments Monday.
Justice McDonald-Bishop continued Monday afternoon and was expected to put the case to the jury late Monday or Tuesday morning.

Crown counsel Toyin Salako used a number of receipts, real and allegedly falsified, along with testimony from people in the department, to argue that Ebanks took cash from people for naturalization applications and then falsified receipts. The Crown said Ebanks stole $51,000 in cash fees over about two years.

The Crown alleged that Ebanks created the false receipts and did not put the payments in the government’s accounting system.

Ebanks’s attorney Laurence Aiolfi argued that there were too many gaps in the prosecution’s case and that the case did not go far enough to prove his client’s guilt in the circumstantial case.

Justice McDonald-Bishop told the six jurors that the case relies on circumstantial evidence and it was up to them to decide whether the circumstances presented in the Crown’s case leads to an “inescapable conclusion” of guilty.

“Drawing of inferences is integral to this case,” she told the jury, as there is no direct evidence like a video of the theft to make the case on.

Instead, the judge said, the jurors will have to weigh the evidence from the paper trail and testimony from government accountants, Ebanks’s former boss and others.

Justice McDonald-Bishop reminded the jurors that the 30 counts in the indictment were intended to serve as a representative sample of the more than 100 occasions Ebanks is suspected of stealing the application fees.