An Ontario veterinarian has been sentenced to jail for what has been called “the largest case of genetic fraud in the history of the Canadian dairy industry.”
Dr. Brian Hill, who pleaded guilty to the charges against him, was sentenced to one year by Judge Peter Isaacs in provincial court, but will serve only three months in prison and the rest under what amounts to house arrest.
Hill still faces several civil lawsuits, including ones from farmers who believe he stole high-value embryos.
Hill’s lawyer, J. Murray Nielson of London, said Hill doesn’t owe farmers anything. That’s hotly disputed by farmers involved in the frauds and the judge said it’s at odds with a joint statement filed with him by lawyers for Hill and for the federal and provincial governments.
That statement includes an estimate by Hill that he took about $1.2 million worth of embryos. That came in answer to an estimate from investigator Roger Weber for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency who estimated he took $2.1 million worth of embryos.
The statement notes that the frauds besmirch the reputation of Canadian Holstein and Jersey breeders and the Canadian dairy industry.
It also appears that most, if not all, of those overseas customers have not been told that they have been defrauded.
The Chinese, for example, set “extremely high qualifications” for donor cows – so high Hill was only able to “qualify” six, yet he sold the Chinese thousands of embryos, many of them taken from scrub cattle, including some that were picked up at community auctions for as little as $100 each.
Hill falsified documents, including breeding slips, embryo identification, embryo collection dates, the identification of the dam and sire and the health status of the donors. He also used blank breeding slips obtained from Gencor Genetics to falsify artificial insemination documents.
Some of the embryo documents listed dams that had been dead for years. In one case, the documents indicated he collected embryos from one donor cow two weeks apart, and got 18 embryos both times.
The false documentation slipped past the scrutiny of frontline officials for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They only began to identify the fraud after Stanton Bros., north of London, filed a complaint.
That eventually led to the identification of more than 40 farmers who were deceived over a period of four to five years while Hill exported to 15 countries.
The guilty plea applies to 29 dairy farms and 7,670 embryos and 103 false documents for exports to Cyprus, Russia, China and Ukraine.
Hill also collected $52,325.28 in government grants for “export and promotional activities.” He registered a property at Thamesford as a CFIA-approved embryo collection centre.
The CFIA is supposed to periodically audit these collection centres.
Hill exported embryos to Pakistan, China, Ukraine, Cyprus, Spain, Russia, Lithuania, the U. S., Japan, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Dominican Republic and Finland during the period when he was forging documents.
He was serving on the board of directors of the Canadian Embryo Transfer Corporation (1996-2002) and was chairman of its certification committee and president for 2000-01. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency uses the corporation’s certification as its quality control on veterinarians it approves to deal with embryo exports.
He was a founding member of the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association, was elected a director in 2003 and vice-president on Sept. 14, 2007.