Former Hudson DG Louise Léger-Villandré pleads guilty
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Former Hudson Director General Louise Léger-Villandré (right) leaves the Valleyfield courthouse after pleading guilty to six of the 19 charges against her in the misappropriation of $1.1 million in municipal funds.
After previously vowing she would plead 'not guilty,' the Town of Hudson’s former Director General Louise Léger-Villandré had an apparent change of heart and pleaded guilty December 10 to six of the 19 charges of fraud in the misappropriation of $1.1 million in municipal funds over a 17-year period.
“The charges include breach of trust and four counts of use of a forged document,” said Crown Prosecutor Mathieu Longpré, confirming the forged documents comprised three cheques totalling $75,000 and the balance of the $1.1 million were under the fraud charges. There was a stay of proceedings on the other counts, thus halting further legal process. Longpré would not reveal any more details of the bargain.
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Hudson’s Director General Jean-Pierre Roy who was present in the Valleyfield courtroom. Roy said the town is exploring other possible civil action against Léger-Villandré to recoup the town’s money and is hoping to have access to evidence taken by UPAC investigators.
“From now on, we have a job to do,” said Roy. “At least now we know. She’s pleaded guilty so now it’s clear.”
Léger-Villandré was arrested October 2014 following an investigation by Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC) investigators after the Town of Hudson administration discovered internal financial irregularities. She had worked for the town for 43 years holding positions that included Treasurer, Town Clerk, DG, and – up until the time it was transferred out of Hudson – was also responsible for the municipal court.
Former Mayor Michael Elliott said he was not entirely surprised by the guilty plea and cited a number of financial irregularities that were revealed when the town hired a new treasurer, Sylvain Bernard, in June 2012. He soon discovered omissions in at-the-source tax deductions of town employees’ pay cheques.
Elliot also recounts that after the town’s municipal court was transferred to the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) the court in Hudson continued to receive its monthly subsidies from the town’s coffers.
“Nobody ever thought of closing the other account to which she was the only signature. I don’t understand why the auditors didn’t pick that up. For 20 years, there was still money going into this account as court costs,” said Elliott. “Nobody questioned it. This allowed her, periodically, to write a cheque to herself. That’s basically what was happening.” Elliott added the fact that the town’s archives were in bad shape allowed for documents to go missing without being detected.
After discovering that a $300,000 town-issued cheque to a contractor for the water and sewage treatment plant had bounced, despite the town’s line of credit, Elliott phoned the bank president who revealed the town was two years behind in its auditing practice. “The bank had warned Madame Villandré a couple of times but had never contacted me directly.”
Blessed with hindsight, Elliott said he would have done things differently. “I’d known her for a long time and I trusted her,” he said. “I didn’t think she would screw the town since, for a small town, she was being very well-paid.”
Current Mayor Ed Prévost said the guilty verdict is, “…another healing phase in the history of Hudson,” but said he’d decline commenting on what Léger-Villandré did, or didn’t, plead guilty on.
Reached in Florida, former Interim Mayor Diane Piacente said she extended her thanks to the UPAC team for its, “excellent job and thorough investigation. Madame Villandré really had no choice but to plead guilty facing the evidence.”
Neither Léger-Villandré nor her lawyer Robert La Haye would speak to reporters at the courthouse.
Longpré would not confirm what type of sentence the Crown would seek for Léger-Villandré, saying the decision will be made once all probationary reports are submitted. The maximum prison sentence for a fraud case is 14 years; though Longpré had previously told Your Local Journal the fact that she had no prior convictions would likely be taken into consideration.
Léger-Villandré will be sentenced February 22, 2016.