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Charges in Ornge case could take up to a year

March 21, 2013, Toronto - Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis says it may take another year before charges, if any, could be laid in the criminal probe of Ornge.


March 21, 2013
By The Canadian Press

Lewis says investigators have travelled throughout Ontario and outside Canada to interview more than 50 people.

He
says they've also obtained 22,000 pages of documents in the course of
their investigation, which started just over a year ago.

Speaking
before a legislative committee, Lewis says there are fraud cases that
have taken years to investigate and no charges were laid.

But he says he's confident that within a year, they'll know whether there will be criminal charges laid.

Ornge has been under fire for more than a year over sky-high salaries, financial irregularities and allegations of kickbacks.

Ornge's
president and CEO testified earlier Wednesday that paying out nearly $2
million in bonuses has caused Ontario's troubled air ambulance service
to slip into the red.

Bonuses were almost always paid in the past
– about 97 per cent of the time – to managers and executives, said Dr.
Andrew McCallum.

It's a "major reason" why a federal arbiter ruled that Ornge must pay out nearly $2 million in performance pay, he said.

Ornge,
which receives about $150 million a year from the government, promised
last year to cancel bonuses to all non-unionized staff, but a group
appealed the decision and won.

The bonuses are causing Ornge to slip into the red with a $2.5 million deficit, McCallum said.

From
now on, the rules will change, he said. Any bonuses for non-unionized
staff will depend on whether they achieve certain "personal and
corporate goals."

Ornge will give performance pay to 424 unionized and non-unionized employees this fiscal year – an average of about $4,632 each.

The
bonuses won't be awarded to anyone who worked for the now bankrupt
entities of Ornge, board chairman Ian Delaney said in a letter to the
government obtained by The Canadian Press.

Last August, the
all-party committee heard that disgraced former CEO Chris Mazza received
at least $1.4 million in compensation. He also received about $1.2
million in loans in a single year, according to documents tabled with
the committee.

Mazza received $500,000 from Ornge Peel in July
2010, $250,000 from Ornge Global and another $450,000 from Ornge Global
in July 2011, according to the documents, which also detailed his lavish
expenses.

Ornge is seeking $500,000 plus interest from Mazza, alleging he defaulted on a loan that he used to buy a house in west Toronto.

In
a statement of claim filed Jan. 22 in a Toronto court, Ornge alleges
that Mazza sold the house without telling Ornge, and has "failed or
refused'' to repay the loan.

Ornge said bankruptcy trustees are
pursuing repayment of other loans Mazza received. They recovered
"partial payment'' of the loans, as well as about $600,000 from the sale
of Mazza's home, said Ornge spokesman James MacDonald.

Auditor
General Jim McCarter has criticized the governing Liberals for failing
to oversee Ornge, despite giving it $730 million over five years and
allowing it to borrow another $300 million.

The Progressive
Conservatives complained Wednesday that Ornge is not providing certain
documents, such as banking records for Ornge's now-bankrupt, for-profit
spinoff companies.

But Health Minister Deb Matthews said they're doing everything they can to comply with the committee's request for information.

"Some 500,000 pages of documents … have been delivered to the committee,'' she said in the legislature.

"We
also have another 1.5 million pages of documents that are being
provided on USB sticks, so Ornge is complying fully and the ministry is
as well.''