Man who took $400,000 from Toronto cancer charity tells judge he wants to ‘make good’

Steven Sokolowski has paid back $400,000 he took from a charity that raises funds for children with cancer, but the entrepreneur was visibly shaken Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to 14 months in jail, rather than the house arrest he hoped for.

“It is not just (the charity) that has suffered from Mr. Sokolowski’s crime but every child that might otherwise have been the beneficiary of the large sum of money diverted,” said Ontario Court Justice Katrina Mulligan in her sentencing decision.

The impact on charitable donors who will now be even more wary is also significant, she said.

“Every charity loses because of his actions,” Mulligan said, adding that this was a well-planned deception that relied on Sokolowski’s inside knowledge and position of trust in the charity, she said.

Sokolowski, 67, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in January.

He was one of the founders of Coast to Coast Against Cancer in 2002, a registered Toronto foundation that has raised tens of millions of dollars to support childhood cancer charities and hosts several cycling and other activities every year. The fraud began when he took on additional responsibilities for day-to-day operations as a director of the foundation.

Between January 2012 and August 2014, he took $400,000 from the charity by filing fraudulent invoices for services never provided or expenses for personal matters, Mulligan found. The fraud was uncovered through a routine audit.

In a separate, civil case before Superior Court Justice James Diamondphoto-ci-sokolowski25.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x724 in 2015, Sokolowski was ordered to repay about $700,000 to Coast to Coast. The judge in that case — which has no bearing on the criminal matter — found Sokolowski spent the money on girlfriends, expensive wine, and hosting a gathering at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, among other expenses.