RCMP have charged four former employees of Opaskwayak Education Services after more than $450,000 was defrauded from Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
The three-year investigation included a forensic audit of OES finances, which determined OES was the subject of fraudulent transactions occurring between March 1, 2017 and March 26, 2018.
“This was a very long and complex investigation,” said Corporal Sheldon Martens of The Pas general investigative section.
“These four accused were in control of the financial department of OES and we believe they used their positions of authority within the organization to purposefully commit fraud. By working together and through the use of a wide variety of financial trickery and deception, over $450,000 was siphoned from the OES.”
On May 20, RCMP laid fraud charges against Marie (Christine) Campbell, 50, Wilfred Harris, 59, Carmen Zolinski, 37, and Anita Ballantyne, 51, all from Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Ballantyne (accounts payable technician), Campbell (director of finance) and Harris (comptroller) have been arrested and will appear in court on August 11, 2020. An arrest warrant is out for Carmen Zolinski (human resources manager), who RCMP say is currently residing in another province.
In a statement, Opaskwayak Cree Nation says the four allegedly procured funds from various OES accounts and concealed their actions by disguising the funds as loans, improper employment income and other various payments not authorized by OES.
“It’s disheartening to think that individuals, including some of our own members, thought it was alright to take money that was meant to further the education of OCN membership, especially our youth,” said Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair.
“Those individuals are in the hands of the law now and will be dealt with accordingly. Going forward our focus as leadership of OCN is to continue improving and strengthening the finances and governance structure as an entire organization. A solid structure will help us put our people first.”
The charges haven’t been tested in court.