Just days before a hockey trip to Europe collapsed, a Vernon widow says she felt financially embarrassed due to pressure to pay up from organizer Michael Elphicke.
The comments came during Elphicke’s trial in Penticton Monday, as he faces charges of fraud and theft over $5,000 and unauthorized management of a lottery scheme for the failed European hockey tour.
Victoria Bochon said her husband was approached by Loren Reagan, another organizer in the failed hockey trip, during a hockey tournament in Whistler in late spring 2011. While Bochon was less enthused about the trip, her husband thought it was a good idea, and her son was “passionate” about it.
Bochon’s family knew Reagan’s family, and when her husband passed away at the end of June 2011, Reagan paid a visit to check on the family, and his son stayed with her son for a few days to keep an eye on him, according to Bochon.
She was approached again in October to sign on in full, and she said she officially had made up her mind to send her son on the trip that month, committing about $1,000 off the bat, along with another similar payment in December and fundraising efforts.
Because of her financial situation, Bochon said Reagan had been giving her a break here and there — if she had to make a payment a week later, so be it.
“I was more than willing to buck up, but things weren’t going as smoothly with this whole program, and I was skeptical of it from the beginning,” Bochon told the court. “There were times that I couldn’t pay at the time, but I was doing it myself.”
Come January 2012, when Bochon had paid a couple thousand dollars and had done some fundraising, she said she wasn’t aware of having to pay any more money for a couple of months — in fact, a payment schedule Crown counsel Patrick Fullerton presented in court indicated her next payment wasn’t due until March.
But Bochon said parents began to feel the pinch in December, as emails from Elphicke and Reagan indicated people needed to pay more money.
Phone calls from Elphicke began coming in, and, because he managed her son’s hockey team, she began hearing from him in person.
“At this point I was getting a little skeptical, and to be honest, my relationship with Mr. Elphicke was not good, and I just didn’t feel that I should give him a cheque for $3,000,” she said.
“He would insinuate that everybody else had paid, that I was one of the only people that didn’t, and because I hadn’t, my son wasn’t going to be able to go on this tournament in Europe.”
Defence lawyer James Pennington suggested in fundraising efforts, it can be a bit of work to keep fundraising efforts on track, to which Bochon agreed.
“Somebody’s got to be a bad guy and whip everybody into shape to make sure they all do their shift, sell their share of stuff, right? That was basically Mr. Elphicke,” Pennington said.
Bochon said she asked to see a statement of how much money she had paid into the trip, and how much she still owed toward the $5,500 trip, but said a statement never came.
Eventually, she said she caved and cut a check for $688 after he approached her at a hockey game and told her she needed to pay up or her son wouldn’t be able to go on the trip.
“Just embarassing me financially in front of my peers,” she said. “It got to the point that Loren got involved, and Loren reassured me that Jeffery (her son) would be able to go, and I just needed to make that one final payment.”
It wasn’t long, Bochon said, before things went south.
“A day or so later, I found out that everything was going not good with them, and that the organization was going to fail,” Bochon said. “So I called my bank to stop the payment, but Mr. Elphicke had already cashed the cheque.”
The trial is scheduled to wrap up at the end of next week, but with Reagan out of the country, and wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, Fullerton said he expects his case to be finished by the end of this week.