Cinar co-founder Ronald Weinberg gets nine-year sentence for fraud

MONTREAL – The co-founder of the Cinar animation company was given a nine-year prison term Wednesday for his role in a $120-million fraud case.

With time already served, Ronald Weinberg still has eight years and 11 months left in the sentence.

Crown prosecutor Matthew Ferguson was seeking the maximum penalty of 10 years, while Weinberg’s lawyer had told the judge she thought a more appropriate sentence would be five years.

Weinberg’s two co-accused, John Xanthoudakis and Lino Matteo, were sentenced to eight years later in the day.

Ferguson told reporters outside the courtroom he believes “the message is getting through” that white-collar crime is as serious as other crimes.

He added the judge didn’t think all the media attention the case received was a factor that should have led to lesser sentences.

“(The sentence) has to send a message — in this case that white-collar crimes will be met with severe punishments,” he said.

Weinberg’s lawyer, Annie Emond, said she didn’t know if her client will appeal.

“It’s not a decision we will make today,” she said.

A jury reached guilty verdicts against Weinberg and the two former financial advisers earlier this month following a trial that began in May 2014.

The three men were charged with transferring funds from Cinar to the Bahamas between 1998 and 2000.

Weinberg was found guilty of nine of the 16 charges against him, including fraud and using false documents and false prospectus.

Matteo, who was president of the Mount Real investment firm, was acquitted on two charges but convicted of nine others, including fraud, using false documents and forgery.

Xanthoudakis, the former head of Norshield Financial Group Inc., was convicted on 17 charges.

The men were arrested in 2011 following a lengthy provincial police probe that alleged the men orchestrated elaborate and large-scale fraud using money from Montreal-based Cinar.

A fourth accused, ex-Cinar senior executive Hasanain Panju, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison. He testified for the Crown at the trial.

Cinar created popular children’s shows such as “Arthur” and “Caillou.”

Weinberg co-founded the company with his wife, Micheline Charest, who died in 2004 after a lack of oxygen to the brain following six hours of facial and breast surgery at a Montreal clinic.