Father Amer Saka, a former Catholic priest operating at churches in London and Kitchener, has just been sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding refugees and their families of nearly $1 million in funds.
In the ruling, the judge found that the priest had been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, which contributed to his compulsive gambling away $936,497. The money was originally intended to be part of a sponsorship program to support new refugees coming to Canada from Iraq and Syria.
Due to his PTSD diagnosis, the ruling judge recommended that Father Saka be placed in a minimum-security prison, as he is not likely to pose a physical risk to anyone.
“He gave a very thoughtful judgment, he took into consideration the fact that my client was fundamentally and is fundamentally a very, very good man who made a mistake,” said Saka’s lawyer, Iryna Revutsky.
Revutsky says that Saka’s PTSD stems from the violent murders of both his mother and brother while the Father was living in Iraq. Until this defrauding, it had gone completely undiagnosed.
“It’s been a very difficult three years for Father Saka and he has certainly made a lot of progress in dealing with his post-traumatic stress disorder,” Revutsky said.
According to Global News, 105 people in 33 families missed out on their promised financial support.
It was initially proposed that Saka would have 45 years to pay restitution, as he has a very moderate annual income of $20,000. This was later revised to 15 years as the priest would be 106 by the deadline and would likely evade punishment if he simply chose not to pay restitution.
If Saka fails to pay restitution to the families, he could face an additional five years of jail time.