Former Toronto court docket clerk pleads responsible for function in visitors ticket-fixing scheme

A former Toronto court docket clerk pleaded responsible Wednesday for his function in a so-called visitors ticket-fixing scheme that defrauded town of 1000’s of {dollars} in fines.

At a listening to earlier than a choose alone within the Superior Courtroom of Justice, Francesco Rizzello pleaded responsible to at least one rely of fraud over $5,000, stemming from his altering of greater than 100 information whereas working on the Eglinton Avenue West courthouse within the first half of 2018.

Based on an agreed assertion of information, Rizzello took a minimum of $7,000 in money funds from a paralegal to alter convictions to acquittals or dismissals, in flip permitting the paralegal to inform their shoppers that their circumstances had been received.

Courtroom heard the paralegal would not inform their shopper a few court docket date, which means nobody would present up from the defence to battle the ticket earlier than a justice of the peace. The justice would then most probably convict the shopper “in absentia,” a typical final result when an accused fails to attend a court docket date.

With advance discover, Rizzello would then alter the report to point out the cost was withdrawn or dismissed, or that the accused was acquitted. He would obtain $50 every time he did this, the assertion of information stated.

The fees have been all associated to Freeway Visitors Act offences, and included issues like careless driving, distracted driving and dashing. The scheme price the Metropolis of Toronto roughly $15,000 in fines and 1000’s in different bills associated to its inside investigation, court docket heard, which started in April 2018 after an nameless tip.

Crown seeks 2-year jail sentence

Rizzello was fired by town in November 2018. The Crown is looking for a two-year jail time period, whereas his defence has requested for a two-year conditional sentence that will be served locally.

Based on the assertion of information, Rizzello struggled with a playing dependancy and substance abuse dysfunction. He took day off work in 2016 and 2017 to attend a rehabilitation program, which left him in appreciable debt.

A sentencing listening to is scheduled for Sept. 7, 2022. 

All the individuals who had their convictions fraudulently modified have since been notified, court docket heard. New court docket dates have been or will likely be scheduled for many who select to problem the tickets.

The paralegal named within the assertion of information learn in court docket Wednesday is Benito Zappia. Zappia owned a agency known as “We Win or It is Free” and charged shoppers a premium retainer payment with the promise they might get off the hook. 

A complete of 4 paralegals, together with Zappia, have been initially charged in Might 2019 for his or her alleged roles within the scheme. The fees towards all however Zappia have been finally withdrawn.

Zappia is at present scheduled to go to trial in January 2023.

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