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Joanne Talbot-Brisson and Daughter Accused of 340K Theft from Seniors

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OTTAWA — Joanne Talbot-Brisson, a long-time administrator at the Cumberland Lodge, was to appear in court on charges of defrauding dependent, elderly residents of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last decade. Cumberland is a community on the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario.

On May 27, 2010, police laid fraud charges against Mary Joanne Ireanne Talbot-Brisson, 46, and Mary Joanne Josée Brisson, 22, following a months-long investigation at the Lodge, which is in Cumberland.

More than a dozen seniors who were defrauded of about $346,000 over a 10-year period, Det. Brenda McGillvray, the lead investigator in the case, said Thursday. “We’ve identified 18 senior victims with multiple offences per victim.” “The scale (of the fraud) is unprecedented.”

Some residents estimate they’ve lost thousands of dollars over the years. Michel Gauthier, 64, includes himself among the victims. Gauthier estimates he’s lost $17,000. He said the thefts took many forms but he only realized something was wrong after he asked Talbot-Brisson to take his bank card and withdraw $100 on his behalf.

About a month and a half later, when he checked his account, he found he had $8 left in his account. He estimates $6,300 had been taken. Gauthier, who is nearly blind from diabetes, said he often asked Talbot-Brisson to deliver cheques on his behalf for items such as his cable television bill or drugs at the pharmacy. One day, he said, he received a call from Rogers asking him for nearly $300 in unpaid cable bills.

“Rogers called me and said ‘hey, you owe us money for the cable’ and I said ‘I pay you every month’,” said Gauthier. “They said they never received any cheques. I had to repay it. The phone, the same thing, $400,” said Gauthier.

On top of that, Gauthier estimated the pharmacist at the lodge wanted $10,000 to cover unpaid bills.

Chantal Ruel, a nurse’s aide at Cumberland Lodge, said residents and staff alike were puzzled at reports of residents missing jewelry and cash, as well as thefts from the in-house pharmacy and from the residence itself.

McGillvray said she began the investigation more than six months ago after the owners of Cumberland Lodge and several independent seniors came forward and made complaints of their own.”

The Community Information Centre of Ottawa lists Bethmar Realty Investments Ltd. as the owner of Cumberland Lodge. Elizabeth L. Kirkey is named as the president and owner, and Michael Ansell as the managing director. Neither could be reached Thursday for comment. Cumberland Lodge, at 2564 Market St., has 64 units with a capacity of 84 residents. It bills itself as a private residential care facility that offers meals, housekeeping, personal care and health services to seniors and people with moderate disabilities.

Talbot-Brisson had been the retirement home’s administrator for most of the period under investigation. She began working in 1998 after claiming to be a registered nurse which she was not.

Talbot-Brisson allegedly helped the seniors to pay their bills. In the detective’s words: “She acted as a person to facilitate and assist in helping seniors in rent collection and other living expenses — cable, phone, pharmacy and things like that.”

Talbot-Brisson is facing a total of 25 charges, including criminal breach of trust, fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000, possession of the proceeds of crime, misappropriation of money held under direction, falsifying employment records, and uttering a forged document.

Brisson is charged with criminal breach of trust, theft under $5,000, fraud under $5,000, and misappropriation of money held under direction for her role in allegedly defrauding one person while she was employed at the lodge.

Adapted from the Ottawa Citizen – May 28, 2010

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