Editor’s Letter: The twisty tale of a crooked cop

Editor’s Letter: The twisty tale of a crooked cop

Our latest investigative feature raises unsettling questions about the trustworthiness of our public officials

Photo by Daniel Ehrenworth

Robert Konashewych was the son of a veteran Toronto police officer, and when he came of age, he applied to the service like his dad. The job was honourable—and lucrative: before long, Konashewych was earning a salary of $128,000. He drove a black BMW and dressed well. His girlfriend hailed from a globe-trotting Toronto family, and together, they attended swishy charity galas. They owned a penthouse condo and vacationed in exotic locales. Konashewych, who grew up working-class in Oakville, had arrived.

But it wasn’t enough. In 2014, he struck up an affair—not his first—with a woman named Adellene Balgobin, a clerk at the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, a little-known provincial department. Its mandate is to manage the affairs of Ontario citizens who have no one else to look after them, which includes ensuring that the estates of these people are properly administered after they die. Their stories are often heartbreaking accounts of mental incapacity, loss and abandonment.

One day, a tantalizing file crossed Balgobin’s desk: a man named Heinz Sommerfeld had passed away after a long and lonely battle with dementia. He was estranged from his half-brother, and his estate was worth $834,000, unusually large for someone in the OPGT’s care. Seized by avarice, Balgobin and Konashewych pillow-talked their way into a diabolical scheme. They decided that she would plant evidence of a friendship between the two men, including a fake will that would bequeath the estate to Konashewych.

It seemed foolproof. Balgobin knew the inner workings of the department, had easy access to the file and could sign off on as many fake documents as they could produce. When the courts required someone to attest to the validity of Sommerfeld’s signature on the will, Balgobin obliged. Konashewych, meanwhile, was the ideal beneficiary: Who would doubt or question a police officer?

The Inside Job: A crooked cop, a dead man and an $800,000 fraud

In the summer of 2018, Konashewych walked into the OPGT offices on Bay Street and left with a six-figure cheque. The plan had worked. Or so it seemed, until a chance conversation at a Yorkville hair salon exposed a single loose thread that threatened to unravel everything.

Our account of the fiasco, “The Inside Job,” is expertly told by veteran journalist Katherine Laidlaw. She’s a smart, thoughtful reporter and a skilled stylist who has produced some of my favourite Toronto Life features over the past decade. The story she tells is full of cinematic turns, but at its core lie unsettling questions about the trustworthiness of our public officials.

When it comes to police, public opinion tends to divide into two camps: those who think all cops are corrupt and those who think they’re all heroes. The reality, of course, is more nuanced. Law enforcement, like any industry, contains a mix of decent, hard-working individuals and bad actors. Konashewych was from the latter camp.

As Laidlaw’s piece suggests, he must have thought he’d happened upon the perfect scheme. Because Sommerfeld was dead, it might have seemed like a victimless crime, but Konashewych couldn’t have been more wrong. Fraud perpetrated by police is among the most destructive types of crime, resonating outward, corroding trust, undermining the work of decent cops and causing the public to wonder, nervously: What else don’t we know?