Former immigration consultant awaits sentencing on fraud charges
A former Windsor immigration consultant, facing a long list of fraud charges, is set to be sentenced after final submissions were heard in court today.
Sam Burgio pleaded guilty last March to swindling almost one million dollars from immigrants hoping to become Canadians.
Only five years ago, Burgio was a successful immigration consultant, well respected in the community.
Today, he delivers water, lugging heavy bottles for his wife's business. His lawyer Brian Dube says of his client, "He's had a significant fall from grace."
The 52-year old pleaded guilty to 12 fraud charges for offences over a seven-year period between 2003 and 2010.
In pre-sentencing submissions, the court heard that clients gave Burgio between $1,300 and $300,000 to submit their applications to Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the hope of gaining status in Canada.
But, over time, they learned their applications were never submitted.
The Crown says unsuspecting clients believed he was a lawyer.
In one case, 21 Pakistani immigrants were defrauded a combined $51,000.
"The promise was one of a new life," said Crown Attorney Elizabeth Brown. "These were people with limited income who had a great deal of hope invested...and they got nothing."
In court Friday, Burgio's lawyer argued he was running a business with huge overhead and that he had come into tough times saying, "He has a deep-seated gambling problem."
Dube says his client’s gambling instincts escalated as the financial stress increased. Over a 10-year period, according to his lawyer, Burgio gambled away around $500,000 at racetracks and casinos using some of his clients' money.
Judge Renee Pomerance commented, "The gambling was at the great expense of others." At the end of the day, Burgio took the stand and at times his voice was shaking and cracking.
He admitted to being a gambler and having an addiction, and that he's been in denial for too long. He told the judge, "I stand before you with feelings of regret, shame and remorse."
The crown is asking for three to four years in jail, and that he be required to pay full restitution to all of those he defrauded.
The defence is asking for no jail time, instead requesting a conditional sentence to be served in the community. A decision is expected on April 30th.