Sentencing hearing today for Joe Fontana, ex-London, Ont., mayor

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LONDON, Ont. - A sentencing hearing is set today for Joe Fontana, who resigned as mayor of London, Ont., last month after he was convicted of fraud-related offences from his time as a federal Liberal cabinet minister.

Fontana was convicted of fraud, forgery and breach of trust after a judge ruled he forged an expense document submitted to the House of Commons in 2005 that resulted in a $1,700 government fraud.

He announced days later that he was resigning and would not return to public life.

Fontana's political career spanned more than 30 years, first as a municipal politician, then as a Liberal member of Parliament, ultimately returning to London as mayor.

Superior Court Judge Bruce Thomas found that while Fontana was a Liberal MP, he forged a contract from his son's wedding to make it look as though it was for a political event at the same venue.

Fontana admitted making seven changes to the contract — including whiting out his wife's signature, replacing it with his own and writing the word "original" at the top — but maintained he was "creating" a new document out of convenience, not committing forgery.

The political event didn't end up going ahead at the Marconi Club, but Fontana testified he believed the club was owed a $1,700 deposit from his MP budget, despite the club not asking for any money.

Since he had only spoken with the club's president — a friend of more than 40 years — over the phone and didn't have any paperwork, Fontana changed several details on the wedding contract from a few months prior and submitted it, he testified. The club received the Government of Canada cheque and credited it to Fontana's son's wedding.

The judge said he did not believe Fontana's testimony, saying the evidence pointed to the cheque being mistakenly sent to the venue. Fontana intended for it to go directly to him, Thomas found. If the money had indeed gone to Fontana, no one would have been the wiser, the judge said.

Organizations: House of Commons, Marconi Club

Geographic location: London, Ont., LONDON, Canada

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