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Former Vaughan worker, family members, charged in $2M fraud case
July 9, 2014
Jeremy Grimaldi

The owner of a freelance photography company is among those charged in a suspected $2.4-fraud ring that police say used Vaughan taxpayers’ dollars as a piggybank.

Linda Ciampichini, 60, from Barrie, has been charged alongside family member Ben Ciampichini, an Innisfil man who worked as Vaughan’s supervisor of water, wastewater and drainage for 23 years. He earned $102,831, according to Ontario’s Sunshine List.

Also charged are relatives Anna Ciampichini, 54, Vittorio Ciampichini, 59, from Innisfil, along with Michele D’Agostino, from Toronto.

According to York police’s major fraud unit, detectives began investigating after receiving reports from an internal City of Vaughan audit that showed more than $2 million had been paid out to fictitious companies.

“He (Ben) would then create and approve fraudulent field purchase orders for services that were never rendered and the fictitious companies received payment from the City of Vaughan,” police said in a media release.

The force added that about 1,000 fraudulent field purchase orders were filed over a 13-year period, resulting in $2.4 million being paid out to those companies.

Linda, who owns Paparazzi For Hire in Barrie, has an extensive online presence that includes countless photos of both her, family members and her clients.

Family members can also be seen in photos on various social media websites lounging at a cottage and taking part in numerous sporting activities such as motocross.

When The Vaughan Citizen contacted Linda about the charges in a call placed to her company cellphone Wednesday evening, Linda denied everything.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, before adding that she had no comment before hanging up.

Meanwhile, photos can also be seen online of Ben standing beside Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua in a 2012 photo, accepting a trophy on behalf of Vaughan’s public works department.

Bevilacqua said the city refuses to tolerate allegedly fraudulent activity and assured residents that new security measures have been put in place at the city.

“I am disappointed that one of our former employees has been charged with a criminal offence,” he told The Citizen. “However, early in this term of council, Vaughan council redefined our internal audit function to ensure we were operating as effectively as possible.”

In an internal email obtained by The Citizen, city manager Barb Cribbett went one step further, indicating these sorts of charges do nothing but bring down the reputation of the city.

“While this incident is unacceptable, we cannot let the actions of certain individuals tarnish all the great things we are doing each and every day for this city,” she wrote to staff. “However, our message is clear — if you break the law, we will take action.”

She added that a new procedure to control the purchase of low-value goods and services was put in place more than a year ago and a new anonymous reporting system has been introduced to report concerns about suspected misconduct.

Police said cases such as this require significant resources and are highly complex to investigate.

“For the past seven months there has been a team of dedicated officers from our Major Fraud Unit working on this investigation,” said Det. Sgt. Dan Corbeil.

Police also thanked the mayor and council for taking action and co-operating throughout the investigation.

Linda, Vittorio and Anna were all charged with fraud over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit fraud. Ben, meanwhile, was charged with fraud, fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust by a public official over a 13-year period.

On Tuesday, all of the accused were taken into custody without incident and appeared in court earlier Wednesday.

Anyone with information can contact the York Regional Police Major Fraud Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6612 or anonymously on Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.