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CanadaLawyer convicted in Bridle Path theft case should serve up to six years in prison, Crown argues

12:12  04 september  2019
12:12  04 september  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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The Crown on Tuesday argued Norma Walton should go to prison for six years in part because Tues., Sept. 3, 2019timer3 min. read. A disbarred Toronto lawyer should serve up to six years in Crown attorney Craig Power told Superior Court Justice Michael Code that an aggravating factor of

The prosecution is seeking a six - year term in federal prison but concedes a lesser sentence may be appropriate depending on the amount of money the judge decides was transferred illegally from the Lawyer convicted in Bridle Path theft case should serve up to six years in prison , Crown argues .

Lawyer convicted in Bridle Path theft case should serve up to six years in prison, Crown argues © Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited Toronto diet doctor Stanley Bernstein, seen left in a May 2014 file photo, invested more than $100 million in real estate projects run by Norma Walton, right. Walton’s sentencing hearings began Tuesday.

A disbarred Toronto lawyer should serve up to six years in a penitentiary for a “premeditated and sophisticated” theft of $6 million in mortgage money she acquired behind the back of her former business partner, a well-known Toronto diet doctor, a prosecutor told a judge Tuesday.

Crown attorney Craig Power told Superior Court Justice Michael Code that an aggravating factor of Norma Walton’s financial crime was that it involved a breach of trust because of her position as a lawyer.

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When Stanley Bernstein joined with Walton to build a real estate empire together, he “relied on her status as a lawyer when he placed his trust in her,” believing that she would be acting properly, Power said. He added Walton’s crimes were motivated by greed, and that there is no evidence of any “extenuating circumstances,” such as substance abuse.

Bernstein invested more than $100 million in properties with Walton before he grew concerned about financial irregularities and stopped financing their ventures.

What happened was the “golden goose had stopped laying eggs,” Power said.

Needing money and “unable to maintain the illusion of being a real estate tycoon,” Walton obtained two mortgages totalling $6 million and then dispersed the funds, including transferring $460,000 to her personal account, the prosecutor continued.

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Code said a six-year prison sentence was at the top end of the sentencing range, adding that whether Walton receives that much depends, in part, on how much he finds she stole.

Power argued Walton is responsible for the theft of the full $6 million, but agreed a lower sentence would be appropriate depending on the judge’s decision.

Power said the defence position — set to be argued Wednesday — was that Walton is only responsible for the theft of the $460,000.

During her trial, court also heard Walton had used some of Bernstein’s money to buy and renovate a sprawling mansion about a kilometre from the doctor’s own home in North York’s exclusive Bridle Path neighbourhood.

The 49-year-old mother of four was convicted by a jury in June of two counts of theft. The jury acquitted her of fraud relating to another transaction.

Also Tuesday, defence lawyer Howard Cohen called a psychiatrist to testify about Walton’s state of mind during the two-week period in 2013 when the illegal financial transactions occurred.

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Dr. Hy Bloom, who interviewed Walton, her husband, and former co-workers, said he did not conclude a mental disorder or post-partum depression or mania was to blame for her conduct.

But he offered a hypothesis on why Walton ended up in “a position like a fast-moving train that’s unstoppable.”

“It wasn’t a mental health disturbance that was weighing on her at the time,” he said, rather the “cumulative strain and stress” of her life at the time, including the birth of a fourth child and troubles in her marriage. Her husband, Ron Walton, was found not guilty of theft after the month-long trial.

Bloom testified Norma Walton grew up in a religious, accomplishment-oriented and competitive family where “there were expectations that hung in the air.”

Walton earned a law degree and has an MBA. She was disbarred in 2015 over circumstances in an unrelated case.

Bloom added real estate entrepreneurship runs in Walton’s family, noting she grew up in 13 different homes while her parents were “upgrading their general ... economic status in life.”

The doctor also testified about her relationship with Bernstein, calling the former business partners “kindred spirits” over their shared aspirations for a billion-dollar real estate empire.

Sentencing hearings are scheduled to continue Wednesday.

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