Doug Ford revamps COVID-19 relief program for families following suspected $ 11 million fraud

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Premier Doug Ford is moving forward with new emergency COVID-19 cash payments for families despite the alleged theft of $ 11 million from the original aid program.

Ford said on Monday that the government’s online application portal had been beefed up following controversy surrounding the family support program last spring.

“We have introduced stricter security measures on these payments to ensure that this never happens again … including one-off audits, the introduction of additional qualification rules (and) the implementation of stronger bank validations.” , he said of the renowned Support for Learners initiative.

As the Star first revealed, the province alleges that “all or part” of Sanjay Madan, Shalini Madan, their sons Chinmaya Madan and Ujjawal Madan, and business partner Vidhan Singh committed “massive fraud” to siphon Family Support payments out of hundreds of bank accounts.

According to documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court, there are “damages for fraud, theft, conversion and conspiracy estimated to be at least $ 11 million”. The government alleges that cash was deposited into accounts at TD and Bank of Montreal.

The allegations about the Madans, who all worked as computer scientists for the Ontario government, and their partner, Singh, have not been proven in court. A police investigation is underway.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province takes the alleged fraud seriously.

“We are pursuing this very quickly and very firmly because the people of Ontario deserve to know what really happened,” said Elliott.

Sanjay Madan was a director of $ 176,608 per year in the Department of Education’s iAccess Solutions Branch before he was fired for cause in early November.

Through his lawyer, Christopher Du Vernet, he did not comment on the allegations.

In the government’s court brief, it is alleged that he “used his in-depth knowledge” as an information technology leader on computer application “to direct an unauthorized rule change to enable fraudulent payments ”.

“Sanjay did not deny having obtained millions of dollars to which he was not entitled, but rather provided unreasonable explanations, while also acknowledging that the money had to be returned,” the court documents say.

His wife, Shalini Madan, is the manager of $ 132,513 per year for electronic ministry support at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. She was suspended with pay on August 11.

Their eldest son Chinmaya Madan was a technical product manager at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for three years before stepping down in August. He now works for Microsoft in Seattle.

Neither Shalini Madan nor Chinmaya Madan responded to repeated calls or emails seeking comment.

In an interview last week, Ujjawal Madan, who worked as a contract government employee in his father’s IT team, told The Star he was aware of the allegations about the family.

“I cannot comment at this time. Now is not the right time, ”said Ujjawal Madan of Atlanta, home of a master’s student at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Their partner, Singh, who reportedly received 170 alimony payments worth $ 42,500 for 30 new Bank of Montreal accounts opened in June, was not available for comment through his lawyer, Christoph Pike.

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A court order blocks all sales of seven Toronto properties owned by the Madan family, including six condominiums and a seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom home in North York.

An eighth property, a four bedroom, four bathroom home in North York, sold in September for a profit of $ 1,031,407. Most of that money was also frozen by the court, with $ 139,000 being held in trust for family legal fees.

Seven detectives from the OPP Anti-Racketeering Branch are investigating the alleged $ 11 million fraud, but no criminal charges have been laid.

Researchers examine past projects led by Sanjay Madan, who won an IT World Canada award in 2010 for leading the $ 4 million initiative to reorganize the demand for loans and grants from the Student Aid Program of Ontario (OSAP).

The OSAP program disburses billions of dollars each year in loans and grants to hundreds of thousands of university and college students.

Seven former colleagues of Sanjay Madan have now contacted the Star since reading the probe.

Speaking confidentially for fear of reprisals, all said he was very specific about which external contractors and subcontractors he would retain on projects.

Former colleagues each indicated that they chose to work multiple times with the same group of trusted entrepreneurs.

As it did last spring, the government is again paying parents $ 200 for each child up to age 12 and $ 250 for each child and youth with special needs up to age 21 to offset the cost of home learning in the event of a pandemic.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 170,000 Ontario families had requested payments online.

The $ 380 million learner support initiative is a revamped version of the $ 378 million family support program.

Robert Benzie is the Bureau Chief of Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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