Toronto Star

Sep. 23, 05:30 EDT

Tycoon wants his pardon back

Dad at centre of support row back in court

Dale Brazao and Patricia Orwen
STAFF REPORTERS
Toronto Star


FAMILY MAN? Blaine Tanner, with his three children in undated photo, was once labelled one of Canada's worst deadbeat dads.
A former Brampton millionaire, once labelled one of Ontario's worst deadbeat dads, is embroiled in a court fight that could end in his deportation from the United States.

Blaine Tanner received a pardon in Canada on various criminal charges on June 17, 1999, but he had failed to tell the National Parole Board about a 1993 conviction for income tax invasion.

Tomorrow, his lawyer Brian Greenspan will argue before a Federal Court judge in Toronto that Tanner did not mean to mislead the federal parole board when he applied for his pardon.

He simply did not realize that his conviction for income tax evasion arising out of a fraudulent claim for $1.3 million in tax credits was a criminal offence, Greenspan will argue.

The parole board revoked Tanner's pardon in August, 2000, saying he had obtained it "under false pretences."

Tanner deliberately concealed his income tax conviction and had not paid the $100,000 fine that accompanied his six-month jail sentence, the parole board says in documents filed with the federal court.

Greenspan argues that Tanner's failure to include his income tax conviction was "not deliberate concealment, but reflected a genuine belief that it was simply not a criminal conviction."

Tanner, 49, who moved to Cleveland after marrying prominent civil rights lawyer Ellen S. Simon in December 1997, was the subject of a Star investigation on deadbeat dads in March, 2000.

At the time, he was involved in a bitter battle with his ex-wife, Pamela Tanner, over the more than $500,000 he owed in child support. Two of their children had such physical and emotional problems that the family qualified for provincial disability benefits, according to the Ontario government.

The province considered Blaine Tanner, who had been ordered to pay $4,000 a month in child support in 1991 but had not paid a cent at the time, one of the worst of the some 128,000 deadbeat dads in the province, according to Ontario's Family Responsibility Office.

The offences covered by the pardon included convictions in 1975 for break enter and theft, and fraud, and a conviction in 1988 for making a false statement on a grant application under the province's small business development program.

But Tanner, who now runs the multi-million-dollar Cleveland-based Guardian Financial Group, neglected to tell the parole board about his guilty plea on Sept. 24, 1993, to evading $360,000 in income taxes.

Tanner was charged after a Revenue Canada audit of his Brampton company, Pioneer Plastics and Services Co. Ltd., turned up some $720,000 in fraudulent expenditures in a 1984 claim of $1.3 million for scientific research tax credits.

Revenue Canada discovered that Tanner had used two other companies that he controlled to create false documents in order to support the claim.

He was sentenced March 1, 1994, to six months in jail, and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine, or serve another six months. Tanner was released after serving two months in jail, but had not yet paid the fine when he applied for the pardon in April, 1998.

That made him ineligible to apply. And had he disclosed his conviction and unpaid fine, he would never have been pardoned in the first place, the parole board says.

If he loses the fight to get his pardon back, Tanner could be deported. Anyone who immigrates to the United States and is later found to have a criminal record in another country could be at risk of deportation, says Jerry Heinauer, district director of the U.S. immigration and naturalization service in Omaha, Nebraska.

"It would all depend on the kind of crime that was committed and how many convictions there were," says Heinauer. "If someone were convicted on three different occasions, that would be more significant than if the convictions were arising out of one incident.

"We very well may consider instituting deportation proceedings if the person was not eligible for an immigrant visa at the time it was issued."

American authorities began looking into Tanner after The Star investigation was published March 4, 2000.

They wanted to know how he entered the country and what he declared on his application for permanent resident status, which he has since obtained, along with his green card allowing him to work in the U.S.

Shortly after The Star story appeared, Tanner had a change of heart about his child support obligations. He cut his former wife a cheque for $130,000, and agreed to pay another $120,000 in arrears along with $1,975 a month in child support.

Tanner also rushed to pay the $100,000 tax evasion fine, but it was too late.

The parole board was already moving to revoke his pardon, and did so on August 4, 2000, despite Tanner's appearance before an adjudicator in Kingston to plead his case.

It is this decision that Tanner is appealing, by way of a judicial review. He is asking the judge to reinstate his pardon on the grounds that the parole board adjudicator "erred" in not accepting his explanation.

In his affidavit, Tanner says he didn't fess up to his income tax rap because he didn't think he had to. He maintains he didn't know that a summary conviction under the Income Tax Act was a criminal conviction, because it was not listed in a copy of his criminal record he obtained from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1997.

"Although I was aware that I had been convicted on September 24, 1993, and sentenced on March 1, 1994, under the Income Tax Act, I did not understand that to be a criminal conviction for which a pardon applied," Tanner says in his affidavit.

"In light of the response from the RCMP with respect to my criminal record, my understanding was reinforced that I did not believe that an offence under the Income Tax Act was relevant or in any way related to my pardon application."

Justice department officials said they can't explain how Tanner's conviction in Brampton court in 1993 was not entered in CPIC, the Canadian Police Information Centre maintained by the RCMP.

Rochelle Patenaude, a spokesperson for the Mounties, says it is up to each Canadian court to report convictions to the federal force, and reporting systems vary from one jurisdiction to another.

A spokesperson for the parole board said that less than one per cent of all pardons are revoked and that most of those revocations are due to someone re-offending.

Tanner's Guardian Financial Group of companies is being sued by several banks in Cleveland who allege he defaulted on multi-million-dollar loans.

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