Thousands of dollars allegedly embezzled from Rock Creek Fall Fair
Allegations of theft from a community fair have rattled and divided a small town in B.C.
Rock Creek Fall Fair spokesperson Lisa Sims says two former senior board members allegedly stole an estimated $150,000 from the Rock Creek and Boundary Fair Association.
On March 10, the community of Rock Creek held a town hall to show attendees dozens of financial documents that appear to suggest money has been embezzled from the organization.
Questions of financial irregularites first arose in 2010, Sims said.
But it wasn’t until the board was replaced three years later that a new treasurer uncovered the possibility of missing money, she explained.
The accused, Randy Moat and Coleen Fortner Moat, were a married couple at the time.
Randy served as the board’s vice-president. Coleen was the treasurer from November 2005 to January 2013.
“There are no invoices or receipts for the entire time she was treasurer, except for the final year when we started asking questions and she was under intense scrutiny,” Sims said.
“Apparently, all paperwork prior to December 2008 was kept at her house, which burned down on Dec. 24, 2008, and all paperwork after that was stolen from the fair office, although the theft was never reported,” she added.
At the meeting, Sims displayed cheques that Coleen had allegedly written to herself using her maiden name. The cheques were signed with Coleen’s married name.
There was a second signature on those cheques, as required, but signatories said they had signed them while the cheques were blank.
“The tradition of trust was so ingrained in the fair,” former board member Mary Lautard said. “This happened under my watch, and I just have to say sorry to the whole community. I did it the way it had always been done.”
In April 2013, the committee’s findings were turned over to RCMP.
But it took five years for RCMP to suggest charges to the Crown prosecutor, Sims said.
An email from RCMP said that they recommended 17 counts of theft under $5,000 plus breach of trust charges and evidence of forged documents for Coleen. Police also recommended two counts of theft under $5,000 and breach of trust charges for Randy.
But the Crown decided not to prosecute the couple, saying the allegations didn’t meet the charging standard.
Sims said the Crown also told the fall fair association that because proper procedures weren’t in place, it’s possible that the alleged mismanagement of funds was incompetence, not criminal behaviour.
“I felt disbelief with the Crown,” Sims said. “I felt that the evidence that was presented was fairly black and white.”
Coleen said there wasn’t any theft and that she isn’t aware of the allegations. She declined an interview with Global News.
Randy could not be reached for comment.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
WATCH (Aired March 15, 2018): Allegations of theft from a community fair have rattled and divided a small town in the B.C. interior
During the RCMP investigation, former board members said they had been asked to keep quiet about the allegations.
“We were handcuffed, basically, into not speaking to the community,” former board member Falko Tilgner said. “We were told that we didn’t want to get any information out because there was going to be a court case pending.”
“And we held off, and that was to our detriment,” he added.
Sims said the fall fair association is now left with little recourse.
“It’s too late for a civil case because the statute of limitations on it is only two years,” she said.
“I hope that this is used as a lesson, that people put policies and procedures in place,” Sims said.
To protect itself in the future, the fall association is updating its bylaws and changing its policies.
“I never present a cheque without an invoice attached, and there is absolutely no pre-signing of cheques,” Sims said.
“This community has been torn apart. There are families and friendships that have suffered because of it, and it’s unfortunate,” she added.
RCMP recommend that non-profit organizations hold informal and unplanned audits throughout the year and provide a way for whistleblowers to report their suspicions anonymously.
“If you leave complete control to one or two people, this is when problems occur because people are human,” Cpl. Daniel Michaud said. “When they have easy access to a lot of money, you never know what happens in their life. It could be financial trouble or addictions.”Follow @Jules_Knox