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Gary Hillyard (left) and John King stand as Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Deborah Paquette enters the courtroom in St. John's Thursday morning.
Gary Hillyard (left) and John King stand as Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Deborah Paquette enters the courtroom in St. John's Nov. 15. - Tara Bradbury

Former Hickman Equipment managers earn house arrest

Two former managers of Hickman Equipment Ltd. will spend the next number of months on house arrest.

Sixty-four-year-old Gary Hillyard, who was chief financial officer of the now-defunct company, and 62-year-old John King, the company's former sales manager, were sentenced to nine months and six months of house arrest, respectively, on fraud-related charges.

Hillyard admitted he had circulated false accounting records for Hickman Equipment between Jan. 1, 1997 and Dec. 31, 2001. King pleaded guilty to defrauding a leasing company of an amount over $5,000 between March 1, 1998 and Oct. 31, 2001.

Hickman Equipment went bankrupt in 2002, with creditors swallowing more than $93 million in losses out of a total debt of $113 million. The frauds were committed, the court heard, essentially to keep the business going.

Records falsified

An investigation by auditors and subsequently police — which eventually included about 30 police officers, hundreds of witnesses and 850 boxes of documents — revealed the company had sold construction equipment out of trust and had falsified records, including rental contracts. Hillyard and King were charged as a result of their willful blindness to the false documents.

Crown and defence lawyers made a joint suggestion of the house arrest sentences to Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Deborah Paquette earlier this month, which she accepted Friday morning.

The sentences are in line with that of former Hickman Equipment general manager Hubert Hunt, who pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud over $5,000 and was given a year of house arrest. William Parsons, who was the company's vice-president of sales, is scheduled to be arraigned on a related charge at the beginning of December.

The men were originally charged in 2012. Back and forth over pre-trial delay saw the case make it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but in April of last year it was ordered to trial.

In an application to the court earlier this year, defence lawyers argued for a stay of proceedings, saying the trial had seen an unreasonable time delay. Paquette dismissed that application in August, saying the Crown had proven the delays were reasonable given the complexity and volume of information in the case.

- With files from Ashley Fitzpatrick

tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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