Fourth person charged in alleged embezzlement of Ontario COVID-19 relief fund

A hacker is seen in this file image. (Pexels)

A fourth person is now facing charges in connection with alleged fraud involving Ontario COVID-19 relief funding.

Ontario Provincial Police say 41-year-old Manish Gambhir of Brampton, Ont., was charged earlier this week with possession of an identity document and possession of property obtained by crime.

Police say Gambhir has been released on bail and is due back in court on Nov. 10.

OPP spokesman Bill Dickson says the arrest is part of the same investigation that led to the arrests of a former bureaucrat, his wife, and a third man earlier this month.

Police have filed criminal charges against Sanjay and Shalini Madhan, as well as Vidhan Singh, in connection with the alleged scheme.

Dickson says the Madhans, Singh and Gambhir have no "direct connection" with each other.

Singh, 54, of Toronto, is charged with fraud over $5,000, money laundering and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. He is due in court Nov. 18.

Sanjay Madan's lawyer has said his client is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of breach of trust.

Stephen Hebscher said Madan and Shalini Madan are also charged with laundering the proceeds of crime over $5,000 and possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000.

The Ontario government has sued the couple and two adult children, alleging they illegally issued and banked cheques under the Support for Families program, which aimed to offset the cost of children learning at home. The province is alleging embezzlement of $11 million.

In addition, Sanjay Madan is accused of taking millions more in kickbacks in an alleged fraud worth more than $30 million.

Madan, his wife and two sons all worked for the province in information technology. He had a senior IT role and helped develop a computer application related to a COVID-19 relief benefit, and was fired in November.

In a statement of defence for the lawsuit, Madan alleges the province had lax security that allowed "widespread misappropriation" of the COVID-19 relief funds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2021.