An Abbotsford police officer apologized in court Monday morning after pleading guilty to two fraud charges, saying he let down his family, friends and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).
“It should never have happened, and I accept full responsibility,” said Const. Ravinder (Rob) Thandi as he choked back tears in Abbotsford provincial court.
Judge Gregory Brown handed Thandi, a 21-year veteran of the APD, a conditional discharge and one year of probation.
The sentence means Thandi, 46, will not have a criminal record if he follows the conditions of his probation over the next 12 months.
These conditions include that he complete 75 hours of community service, as well as pay back $2,500 in health benefits fraudulently claimed for his then-girlfriend and her son.
Thandi’s lawyer stated in court that his client has already reimbursed $1,512 to Pacific Blue Cross and $1,014 to the provincial medical services plan.
The court was told the fraud stemmed from a relationship that Thandi, who is divorced with three children, began in 2011.
Defence lawyer David Silverman said Thandi wanted the woman and her son to move in with him, but his mom, who lived with him, was opposed to such an arrangement.
Instead, Thandi planned to build a new house, with a separate suite for his mom.
But when Thandi added the woman and her child to his extended health benefits in April 2013, he indicated on the records that he and the woman had been living together since November 2011.
“The truth is that (the two) never co-habitated at all,” said Crown lawyer Daniel Loucks.
Silverman said the pair were in a serious relationship and, in Thandi’s mind, that amounted to a common-law partnership, although he knew he was lying when he indicated they were living together.
His motives were to help out his girlfriend and son, and did not involve personal gain, Silverman said.
The woman began a new relationship in April 2014, and Thandi requested she be removed from his benefits.
The woman told police that she and Thandi had not lived together, and an investigation was launched. Thandi was arrested on his birthday in June 2014 and subsequently charged.
Loucks said Thandi immediately admitted to police the circumstances of the fraud and co-operated with the investigation.
About 35 letters supporting Thandi were presented to the judge.
“All of them speak to a man who is very dedicated to his family, who is very conscientious in his job … They all amount very much to a person who is otherwise a very honest person who made a very silly mistake,” Silverman said.
Thandi apologized in court, saying he had allowed his judgment to get clouded, but he had learned from his mistake and hoped to become a better person.
In sentencing Thandi, the judge said he took several mitigating factors into consideration, including numerous letters of support presented in court, Thandi’s early guilty plea, his willingness to pay back the funds, his remorse and the fact that the fraud did not occur on the job.
However, Brown said police are held to a higher standard than the average citizen.
“I’m highly concerned that an act of dishonesty is coming from a police officer in our community,” he said.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Thandi said he believed the judge’s ruling was fair, and he hopes to be able to return to policing in the future.
“The reason I became a police officer was to help other people. It wasn’t to deceive people or rip people off,” he said.
Thandi was initially suspended without pay, but in February the police board decided he should no longer receive a paycheque from the APD.
He remains under suspension and the decision on whether he can return as a police officer will now be determined by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which determines whether misconduct has occurred and, if so, what disciplinary action should result, including dismissal.