Nunavut fraudster pleads guilty, will repay Kitikmeot housing association
“A southerner moving north and defrauding a public agency responsible for providing safe housing in the territory of Nunavut where this need is acute is most aggravating”
A Niagara Falls man who pleaded guilty to defrauding the Cambridge Bay Housing Association of nearly $27,000 has been sentenced to three years’ probation and is under a court order to pay back the money he stole.
James Peckham, 60, loaded prepaid credit cards with housing authority funds during his time as a housing manager in the Kitikmeot community, where he worked from October 2011 to May 2014.
Statements from those credit cards show that the money was used to pay for hotels, car rentals, tourist attractions, restaurants, airline tickets, electronics and massage therapy, among many other personal purchases. Transactions were made in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, and in U.S. states such as New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and Massachusetts.
That’s according to an agreed statement of facts, which also states that housing association money used on those credit cards amounts to $26,966.42.
Peckham appeared at the Nunavut Court of Justice by video conference from Ottawa on Monday to enter a guilty plea to one count of fraud in excess of $5,000 he was charged with in 2016.
That’s after the RCMP investigated fraudulent use of housing authority funds flagged by an audit, done after Peckham’s successor found discrepancies in the housing association’s records.
Peckham will spend the first six months of his probation on house arrest 24 hours a day, barring time spent to go to work. Justice Christian Lyons also sentenced Peckham to one day in jail—time served by his appearance in court—so that his criminal record would reflect a custodial sentence.
“I find a lengthy period of imprisonment would inhibit Mr. Peckham’s ability to make restitution,” Lyons said, noting that often crimes of this nature lead to jail terms.
The fraud was made at a time when Peckham was found to be under financial stress due to failures in his marriage and personal business. But his use of housing authority funds doesn’t reflect any financial hardship, Lyons said.
“Transactions don’t smack of need,” he said. “This is a very serious offence. A southerner moving north and defrauding a public agency responsible for providing safe housing in the territory of Nunavut where this need is acute is most aggravating.”
Lyon’s sentence close to a joint sentence submitted by Crown and defence lawyers, who called for three years probation and a suspended sentence—meaning no jail time—and for Peckham to repay the money he took.
“It’s a fraud that strikes at a vulnerable people who are reliant on public housing,” said Crown lawyer Gary Wool.
Defence lawyer Gillian Bourke called her client’s actions “a crime of opportunity,” but noted that the case had unnecessarily dragged on—coming to assignment court as many as 14 times.
Peckham is employed in the lumber industry. He is required to make monthly payments of at least $450 dollars to the Nunavut Court of Justice until he has paid $23,300 by the end of his probation period.
He must also make a standalone payment of $3,966 by Dec. 31, 2022, to the Nunavut Court of Justice. All restitution payments will be transferred to the Cambridge Bay Housing Authority.