By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A southern Alberta mother who fooled doctors, case workers, and even a lawyer, so she could defraud the provincial government of nearly $100,000 in healthcare support, has been sent to jail.
Although Judith Louise Lyczewski’s lawyer had argued for a conditional sentence that would place the accused under house arrest and keep her out of jail, Judge Eric Peterson agreed with the Crown that such a sentence is inappropriate for crimes that defrauded three Alberta government health departments of $91,315.
“That is neither a fit nor proportional sentence in this particular case,” Crown prosecutor Erin Olsen argued Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court, where Lyczewski was sentenced to 15 months in jail on three counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of uttering a forged document.
Olsen had recommended a jail sentence of 20 months while defence lawyer Miranda Hlady suggested a 10-month conditional sentence would suffice. Hlady said her client has stayed out of trouble since her arrest in 2013, and she is the sole guardian of three children ranging in age from 16 to 20.
“She is unlikely to re-offend while living in the community,” Hlady said.
But the Crown pointed out, and the judge agreed, that Lyczewski’s level of fraud between 2010 and 2012 warranted actual jail.
The accused committed fraud over three years by lying about not receiving spousal and child support, and submitting forged prescriptions, false expense claims, and forged doctors’ letters about her own and her children’s alleged medical conditions and needs. She even convinced doctors, a lawyer, and case workers to rely on a forged Court of Queen’s Bench order that enabled her to receive money under the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program.
In addition to forging medical letters to get benefits for her children, Lyczewski, 54, claimed 152 visits to Alberta Childrens’ Hospital to justify her expense requests, when she actually visited the hospital only 17 times between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2012.
She also received benefits for which she would not have been eligible had she declared monthly spousal and child support she received from her ex-husband through the Maintenance Enforcement Program, which totalled $80,000 over three years.
Lyczewski created forgeries on her home computers, which were based on portions of authentic medical letters and prescriptions to which she had made additions or changes to support her claims to doctors, the Horizon School Division, and support agencies. During a search of her home, police found dozens of forged letters, many of which claimed, among other things, that all three of Lyczewski’s children were severely disabled, and suffered from autism, Tourette Syndrome, exhaustion, dyslexia and anxiety.
Olsen pointed out Tuesday, however, Lyczewski didn’t have any documents to support her claims.
The Enchant-area woman originally pleaded not guilty May 30, 2014 to numerous fraud-related charges but changed her mind last October when she was scheduled to begin her trial. And even though she agreed with the facts as they were read in court, she was not sentenced. Instead, her lawyer requested a PSR, pre-sentence report, which outlines an accused’s personal circumstances to help the judge determine a fit sentence, and the case was adjourned.
That PSR, Olsen pointed out Tuesday, says Lyczewski is not a good candidate for a conditional sentence.
Judge Peterson agreed and said Lyczewski’s actions showed a level of sophistication not often seen in similar types of fraud cases. He said she went to extensive lengths to perpetrate her frauds, and allowing her to serve a conditional sentence would send the wrong message to the community and do little to deter her from re-offending.
“There is indeed a danger to the community,” Peterson said.
In addition to her jail sentence, the judge also ordered Lyczewski to repay the amount she defrauded the government departments.