Multi-year RCMP investigation results in fraud charges for education service employees
WINNIPEG -- Four employees have been charged with defrauding Opaskwayak Education Services (OES) of hundreds of thousands of dollars following a multi-year investigation, according to RCMP.
Mounties said they received a report of the possible fraud on March 27, 2018. Police then worked closely with the OES, including a forensic audit of its finances.
According to RCMP, they discovered that between March 1, 2017, and March 2018, the OES was defrauded of more than $450,000.
Corp. Sheldon Martens, of The Pas general investigative section, said it was a long and complex investigation.
“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,” he said in a news release.
“By working together and through the use of a wide variety of financial trickery and deception, over $450,000 was siphoned from the OES.”
Four OES employees are facing charges of fraud: Marie (Christine) Campbell, 50; Wilfred Harris; 59; Carmen Zolinski, 37; and Anita Ballantyne, 51. All of the suspects are from Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Ballantyne, Campbell, and Harris have been arrested and will appear in court on Aug. 11. Zolinski, who is currently living in another province, has a warrant out for her arrest.
None of the charges have been tested in court.
STATEMENT FROM OPASKWAYAK CREE NATION
In a statement from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN), it says the Onekanew mena Onuschekewuk (O&O) of the nation is "pursuing renewed initiatives to strengthen accountability and governance" following the investigation.
“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 Christian Sinclair.
The O&O said it has approved a restructuring of the OCN and there are plans to centralize and standardize finance, human resources, communications, and information technology of its eight branches.
“These findings, as difficult as it has been, have exposed a silver lining. It has become an opportunity and catalyst for strengthening our Cree traditions, customs, and beliefs,” added Sinclair. “The leadership of today believe that accountability and transparency to its members is one of the fundamental values of ensuring that OCN continues toward true progress and independence. We need to work together to maintain community wide growth for the next seven generations and beyond.”