The Ontario Securities Commission has laid new criminal and quasi-criminal charges against five more people in connection with allegations that confidential maternity ward records from two Toronto-area hospitals were stolen and used to market registered educations savings plan investments to new mothers.
Last fall, the province's financial markets regulator laid quasi-criminal charges against a Pickering, Ont., woman, a former clerk at Rouge Valley Centenary hospital in east Toronto, after an unknown number of new mothers were mysteriously contacted by RESP salespeople after bringing their new babies home. The privacy commissioner launched a probe and a class action lawsuit on behalf of patients was filed against the hospital.
Michael Crystal, a lawyer behind a class-action lawsuit against the hospitals on behalf of the up to 14,000 patients he says may have been affected, said he has been in touch with at least 600 people who say their privacy was breached. He said the OSC is clearly taking the allegations very seriously.
"They feel very violated," he said of the patients. "This [the charges] does resonate with them."
On Tuesday, the OSC said it was now laying charges against a former saleswoman for Global RESP Corp. named Nellie Acar, alleging that Ms. Acar had purchased stolen maternity patient labels from a registered nurse, Esther Cruz, over two and a half years. Ms. Cruz, the OSC said, used to work in the maternity wards of both Rouge Valley Health System and the Scarborough Hospital.
The OSC also alleges that Ms. Acar submitted at least two false education savings plan enrolment applications. She is facing criminal charges of secret commissions and forgery. Ms. Cruz is charged with secret commissions, breach of trust and theft.
Also facing charges is Poly Edry, a former branch manager with Knowledge First Financial Inc., who is alleged to have purchased confidential maternity information over five years from former Rouge Valley hospital clerk Shaida Bandali, the woman the OSC first charged last fall with unregistered trading. The OSC also alleges that Subramaniam Sulur, a former assistant branch manager with CST Consultants Inc., purchased confidential maternity ward information from Ms. Bandali over two years.
The OSC alleged Ms. Edry and Mr. Sulur provided the contact information to sales representatives trying to sell RESP investments. Both are facing charges under the Securities Act, as is Ms. Edry's spouse, Gavriel Edry.
None of the allegations have been proved in court. All five of the people facing new allegations are due to appear in court next month. The OSC said the investigation was conducted by its Joint Serious Offences Team, a partnership with the RCMP and the OPP. The OSC also said both hospitals had co-operated and assisted with the investigation.
Those facing charges could not be reached for comment.
The OSC can lay quasi-criminal charges under the Ontario Securities Act before a court, as opposed to the OSC's own tribunal. Doing so allows the regulator to seek jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to $5-million.
Mississauga-based Knowledge First Financial said in a statement that it terminated Ms. Edry for violating the company's policies after the OSC alerted the company and the firm conducted an internal investigation last November.
"We are sorry this incident has violated public trust. We are extremely disappointed by the behaviour of this individual and it is not indicative of our commitment to ethical business practices, which is unwavering," George Hopkinson, the company's president and CEO, said in a statement.