Lawyer asks to withdraw as trial deadline nears in military fraud case

Concerns are being raised about the trial of four civilians accused of defrauding the military of $1.3 million in expensive parts for heating systems.

The four — Bry’n Ross, Wayne Langille, Harold Dawson and his wife, Kim Dawson — are scheduled to go on trial in May.

But Thursday morning in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the lawyer for Langille appeared and asked for permission to withdraw.

Elizabeth Cooper told the court Langille has not paid legal bills since August.

“I don’t think my client is in a position to bring the retainer up to date,” Cooper said in asking to withdraw from the file.

Up against deadline

Justice Christa Brothers was reluctant to grant Cooper’s request.

“I am a little concerned,” the judge said. “We’re up against the deadline for Jordan on this.”

Jordan is a Supreme Court of Canada decision that has set firm deadlines by which court cases must be completed. In Nova Scotia Supreme Court, that deadline is 30 months from the time the charges are laid. Langille and his co-accused were charged in July 2016.

Federal Crown prosecutor Mark Donahue also voiced concerns about Cooper withdrawing.

“This is not a case that we could easily sever,” he said.

Brothers ordered the matter to return to court next month for an update while Langille tries to secure money, find a new lawyer, or both.

4-year investigation

Ross is a former civilian contracts officer and Langille is a former heating plant manager at Canadian Forces Base Halifax.

Both were charged after a four-year investigation with one count of fraud over $5,000 and one count of fraud on the government. The Dawsons face the same charges.

It’s alleged four Nova Scotia shell companies were created to bid on contracts. It’s also alleged those four companies competed among themselves to supply the parts to CFB Halifax.

The investigation began when a civilian senior staffer in Shearwater noticed something suspicious about the contracts: all four companies were registered to one owner and the tender applications from each company all appeared to be written in the same handwriting.

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