Michael Elphicke, who is facing fraud charges, leaves the Penticton Law Courts on day one of the trial for lunch hour. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Alleged Okanagan hockey fraudster took money as failure loomed

Elphicke also reportedly helped pay $20,000 of OEHA money to hockey dorm he wasn’t involved with

As funds continued to dwindle, and as the failure of a youth hockey trip to Europe loomed, an organizer of the trip continued to pay himself out, courts heard Tuesday morning.

Michael Elphicke, part owner of the now-defunct Okanagan Elite Hockey Academy, was back on the stand Tuesday, after coming in as his own witness on Monday. Tuesday, however, he was subject to a testy cross-examination from Crown lawyer Patrick Fullerton.

Related: Alleged Okanagan hockey fraudster takes the stand

It was a tense morning in court for Elphicke, who answered to Fullerton’s detailing of OEHA account withdrawals. Money in OEHA accounts was intended to be put toward a hockey trip to Europe for Okanagan youth.

That trip never happened, with fundraising efforts collapsing in January, after it was discovered the OEHA did not have the funds for a second payment toward Azorcan Global Tours, a tour planning company the OEHA was working with the organize the trip.

By the end of January 2012, just $13,000 was left in the OEHA bank accounts, despite over $180,000 deposited into accounts through raffle sales and hockey parent contributions.

In November, as $64,000 went into accounts for the OEHA, $65,000 left the accounts, the court heard.

Related: Elphicke reportedly took $17,000 of hockey funds

Elphicke testified that by August 2011, he was already aware of Reagan misusing funds from the OEHA, adding he took steps to limit Reagan’s ability to withdraw from accounts, including a two-signature cheque writing policy and cutting up credit cards at the direction of the Bank of Montreal.

By October that year, Elphicke said he was confident Reagan had no money, and was using OEHA money to pay for his hockey dorm project.

“You could have called up the Bank of Montreal and said, ‘hey, what’s going on,’ or ‘we need to cancel all these cheques and not have any more issue,’ couldn’t you?” Fullerton asked Elphicke. “You already knew who to talk to.”

Elphicke said he believed he had conversations with the bank throughout about the issues — to which Fullerton was quick to point out there had never been any evidence of those alleged conversations until Elphicke mentioned them Tuesday morning.

Related: Hockey parent takes the stand in fraud trial

Elphicke also noted the “calibre” of Reagan’s ability to make excuses for his wrongful activities or smooth things over.

“There’s always an explanation,” Fullerton agreed, adding Reagan and Elphicke had already failed to complete a rent-to-buy condo venture, and by that point Elphicke had already lent Reagan plenty of money, without any hope of seeing it come back to him.

“I knew he was a scumbag, yeah,” Elphicke responded.

Among the $65,000 that left the account in November 2011, Fullerton focused on one transaction in particular. Elphicke agreed that when Reagan contacted him, asking to take out $20,000 to pay for the mortgage for the hockey dorms, he helped pay that money out through a wire transfer.

Related: Elphicke painting Penticton hockey fraud as one-man scam

“You had a partner that had uncontrolled spending habits, right? You then give to his benefit, $20,000 to Citation Ventures … to get the mortgage on a thing you had no involvement in,” Fullerton said.

“So you took Okanagan Elite Hockey Association hockey parent money,” Fullerton began, with Elphicke interjecting to call it “customer money.”

“It doesn’t matter what you call it, sir,” Fullerton said.

Elphicke said he didn’t feel the hockey tour was at risk at that point, to which Fullerton asked if he needed to look at the proof of transactions and bank statements again.

“I can provide you with a calculator,” Elphicke responded.

“The closing balance is $4,020 at the end of November,” Fullerton said.

Related: Loren Reagan skates off on hockey fraud trial

But the the withdrawals from the accounts into December continued, still at a higher rate than deposits, leaving the final balance at the end of that month at $171.55.

Elphicke agreed he knew of the low balance in the accounts in December, but Fullerton pointed out that he still signed a cheque to the City of Penticton for $5,000, a payment for the dorm purchase.

He also received a payment, himself, from the business in December, and later on took a $5,500 payment from the bank in January.

“I was still owed several thousand dollars from OEHA,” Elphicke said.

But as the money was nearly drained in January, cheques from parents were still deposited into the OEHA accounts, to the tune of over $18,000.

Elphicke’s trial is expected to wrap up this week.

Related: Alleged hockey fraudster ‘embarassed’ widow


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

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