September 29, 2023 – 7:38 AM
A Kamloops dentist is left paying for services out-of-pocket and a nightmare of paperwork after her former receptionist embezzled thousands from the clinic and patient insurance funds.
Christina Leigh Bornais, 47, pleaded guilty to four of 21 criminal charges yesterday, Sept. 28, after defrauding her employer and nine insurance companies over eight years.
She managed to cover up her tracks as she overbilled patient insurance, deposited cheques for more than $144,000 into her own bank accounts and deleted records from the clinic, the court heard.
Bornais pleaded guilty to two counts of altering or destroying records, fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000, with the remaining expected to be stayed. The fraud went on for years, from 2011 to 2019.
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Crown prosecutor Leah Winters said it’s been difficult to determine just how much she stole, but the dental clinic’s accountant and RCMP could point to at least $144,900 in cheques Bornais fraudulently deposited into her own accounts.
Winters said dentist Dr. Maureen Murray estimates more than $200,000 was stolen from her clinic, but it gradually became more difficult to track down her losses as insurance companies began to charge her for the records and copies of cheques she requested.
Now that patient records are unclear or deleted from the clinic, and their insurance has paid more than it should have, Dr. Maureen Murray is working for free while trying to reconstruct a paper trail of what dental work they’ve had.
Murray hired an accountant in 2018 to address financial issues with the clinic, who found “multiple instances” of fraudulent billing, Winters said.
“(The accountant’s) attempts to work with Bornais to clean up accounts and address discrepancies were unsuccessful as Bornais withheld information, misrepresented facts and was generally non-responsive,” Winters said.
Murray and her husband confronted Bornais about it in early March.
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“Ms. Bornais was unable to provide an explanation and her employment was terminated,” Winters said.
More than two years later, Bornais was charged.
She wiped tears from her eyes while lawyers laid out the facts of the case, explaining both the scale of her fraud and the impact on Murray and her patients.
Her lawyer, Joe Killoran, told the court the theft began when Bornais’ son faced legal troubles and she needed money to support the upcoming bills, but she was also dealing with alcoholism at the time.
Killoran said that was the beginning of a cycle that she managed to continue until she was “relying on the money,” admitting the fraud was “inexcusable and deliberate.”
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Since she was charged, Bornais was diagnosed with depression and attempted suicide once, and says she is apologetic for what she did.
“I take full responsibility for my crimes and I’m not fighting the charges in any way. I’m full of remorse for what I did. I just hope you can understand, even if you can never forgive me,” she said in a letter written for Murray. She hasn’t been able to deliver the letter because of a court-ordered no-contact order.
She continues to work as an office administrator for a local construction company, which Killoran noted is not aware of her charges.
The Crown is seeking 20 months in jail followed by two years probation. Bornais’ defence is seeking a two-year conditional sentence order, which would allow her to remain outside of a correctional centre. Killoran suggested a three-year probation order should follow with similar conditions.
Both sides agreed Bornais should repay the more than $144,000 she stole, but that it should go entirely to Murray.
Although the total charges related to nine insurance companies and Murray, Winters said the full amount should got to the clinic because it’s likely the clinic lost more than $144,000, it continues to rebuild its patient records and Murray is giving free work to patients.
Winters added the insurance companies have been difficult to reach and seemed uninterested in participating in the investigation, especially because some began charging Murray for seeking more records.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear just how many patients were affected and had their insurance coverage overbilled.
Justice Brad Smith said he would give his sentence at a later date, but it hasn’t yet been scheduled.
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