Kelowna social worker pleads guilty

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A former social worker accused of stealing money from children in B.C.'s care system has pleaded guilty to several charges, including fraud over $5,000.

Robert Riley Saunders also pleaded guilty Monday to individual counts of breach of trust and using a forged document during his time working for the Ministry of Children and Family Development in Kelowna.

He is scheduled to appear in court again in March for sentencing, the B.C. Prosecution Service said.

Saunders was accused of moving foster children away from stable homes so they would become eligible for financial benefits from the ministry, then taking that funding for himself.

The provincial government previously settled a class action lawsuit with more than 100 of Saunders' alleged victims, paying them a base amount of $25,000, with additional payments available to those who are Indigenous, had their education delayed, or experienced homelessness, psychological harm, sexual exploitation or injury.

Saunders never filed a response to the lawsuit.

He was arrested in Alberta in December 2020 following what authorities described as a "lengthy and laborious investigation," which began in 2018 and covered the approximately 22 years he had been employed with the ministry.