Fraud charges laid against social worker accused of harming B.C. foster children
Riley Saunders is seen in this Facebook photo from 2017.
VANCOUVER -- Charges have been laid against a former Kelowna social worker accused of stealing money from children in the care of the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Robert Riley Saunders has been charged with 10 counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust and one count of uttering a forged document, Kelowna RCMP said in a news release Friday.
Police described the charges as the result of "a lengthy and laborious investigation" that began in March 2018 and covered allegedly fraudulent activity Saunders engaged in while employed by the ministry from 1996 to 2018.
Earlier this year, the provincial government settled a class action lawsuit with more than 100 of Saunders' alleged victims.
The multiple claims filed against Saunders and the province alleged that Saunders moved foster children from stable homes in order to make them eligible for financial benefits from the ministry. They also alleged that Saunders then stole the children's money, leaving them homeless and vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse and addiction.
In the settlement, the province admitted that Saunders caused harm to children in the ministry's care, making the province vicariously liable for that harm.
The province agreed to pay a $25,000 base amount to Saunders' alleged victims, with additional payments available to those who are Indigenous, experienced homelessness, psychological harm, sexual exploitation, injury, or whose education was delayed.
Saunders never filed a response to the lawsuit.
Kelowna RCMP say a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was subsequently taken into custody in Alberta. He has been remanded into custody and is scheduled to appear in Kelowna Provincial Court next week, police said.
With files from The Canadian Press