Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Quebec couple must pay $1.2 million in damages to estate of 97-year-old man they exploited


In 2003, Albany Duhaime, 87, was distraught over the death of his wife of 34 years while they were on a trip to France. Alain Satgé and Liliane De Vries, Duhaime’s longtime friends, offered to help with his finances.

By the time police stepped in seven years later, Duhaime’s assets had been wiped out. Worth more than $1 million in 2004, they were valued at less than $5,000 by 2009.

Duhaime was 97 and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease when he died in 2013.

On Monday, in the biggest judgment of its kind ever handed down, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Trois-Rivières couple to pay $1.2 million in damages to Duhaime’s estate.

“Their actions are all the more reprehensible when you consider that they orchestrated the stripping of the assets of a friend who believed them to be sincere,” Judge Yvan Nolet wrote in his ruling.

The ruling came three months after Satgé, 79, and De Vries, 71, were sentenced to three and four years in prison, respectively, for defrauding Duhaime.

The case was brought before the Tribunal by the Quebec Human Rights Commission, which took on the case after several people contacted it about Duhaime’s finances in 2010.

The couple was accused of contravening Article 48 of Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It states that “every aged person and every handicapped person” has a right to “the protection and security that must be provided to him by his family or the persons acting in their stead.”

Duhaime’s world began to crumble when his wife died in France in 2003. He was inconsolable because, suffering from a broken hip in a different hospital, he was unable to be by her side when she died and could not attend her funeral.

Depressed and alone, he was crying constantly and was helpless without his wife, who had managed the household and the couple’s budget, the Tribunal was told.

Satgé and De Vries were “well aware of Duhaime’s vulnerability and his sudden dependence on them” and of “the blind trust he had in them because he perceived them as true friends,” the Tribunal judgment notes.

Duhaime and his wife had helped Satgé and De Vries immigrate to Canada from France in 1998.

Beginning in 2003, De Vries opened new bank accounts for Duhaime, obtained a bank card and had access to his safety deposit box. Duhaime at one point gave the couple carte blanche to deal with his affairs after they “fuelled his anger and fear” toward his family and his wife’s son, who was disinherited in favour of the couple, the Tribunal heard.

Duhaime ceded his Trois-Rivières home to the couple, continuing to live in it but paying for maintenance and repairs. The couple took his $18,000 car and used $79,000 to buy a truck for their son. Some cash was used to pay for the couple’s vacations and renovations to their home, and to finance their resort, Scoobyraid in Lamarche, near Lac St-Jean.

Over a few months, hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to Duhaime was withdrawn in cash from a Caisse populaire and a Bank of Montreal branch.

“It’s somewhat surprising that financial institutions allowed a mandate holder to withdraw amounts this big, in cash, at counters,” Judge Nolet noted. “It’s even more surprising when the account holder is elderly. How were such withdrawals allowed without at least questioning whether the person was being exploited?”

In 2010, Duhaime complained to family members that someone was stealing his money. He later told Trois-Rivières police that he had never given the couple permission to take his money.

With the investigation underway in 2010, police discovered the couple had purchased one-way tickets to France for themselves and Duhaime. That’s when the couple was arrested.

The Tribunal dismissed the couple’s assertion that they had all the proper paperwork for the money transfers and that Duhaime gave them gifts because he wanted to thank them, “pamper” them, and help them “enjoy life.”

In 2010, a doctor concluded that Duhaime had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for five or six years, meaning his mental abilities were deteriorating when many of the transactions in question took place, the Tribunal was told.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission defines exploitation as “the act of taking advantage of a person’s vulnerability or dependency to deprive them of their rights.” Anyone who thinks they are a victim of exploitation or suspect an elderly or disabled person is a victim can seek help from the Commission.

Full Article & Source:
Quebec couple must pay $1.2 million in damages to estate of 97-year-old man they exploited

2 comments:

Troy said...

Guardianship abuse is international in scope. Thanks for reporting and reporting, NASGA.

Betty said...

I am glad they have to pay damages, but then they should be carted off to jail.