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Family say they are ‘scapegoats’ for PMHA

The family accused in the embezzlement lawsuit with the PMHA is saying they are "scapegoats"

The family of the woman being sued by the Penticton Minor Hockey Association for embezzlement and fraud say they are “scapegoats.”

The family of former PMHA treasurer Sandra Elder, who died in 2013, issued a response to the organization’s lawsuit on May 22 denying any wrongdoing by Elder, her husband or two children relating to the $315,000 the PMHA alleges was embezzled.

The response was filed almost a year after the proceedings began, as there was difficulty finding Elder’s daughter Samantha to serve her. A court order was made for alternative service of Samantha on April 22, after extensive efforts were made to find her according to court documents.

The lawsuit alleges that Elder faked invoices and altered cheques to embezzle over $300,000 from the hockey organization. She served as treasurer from 2001 until her death in July, 2013.

Elder’s daughter Samantha, husband Mark and son Mathew are among nine defendants listed in the notice of claim sent out last month along with five John Does.

The response to the lawsuit, initially filed May, 21, 2014, claims that the Elder estate “denies wrongfully taking, converting and/or embezzling the sum of $315,650 from (the PMHA)” by allegedly misrepresenting facts, overstating charges and accounts, understating income, creating fictitious charges, vendors and invoices and altering cheques payable to others in her own name, or at all.

A forensic audit of the PMHA’s books allegedly found evidence that the funds were misappropriated between May 2010 and April 2013 according to the notice of claim, however, the response claims there were regular audits of the PMHA’s finances by a certified general accountant during Elder’s time as treasurer.

The Elder family also denies receiving any portion of the funds from Sandra, and the response notes that the defendants are unable to provide any particulars beyond “a bare denial as the (PMHA) has refused to provide particulars of the alleged fraud and embezzlement.”

The response claims the Elders have been made scapegoats by the PMHA’s “mismanagement and malfeasance of the funds” and that the family is seeking special costs from the organization due to the “allegations of fraud, theft, embezzlement and wrongful detention of the Plantiff’s property is without any basis in fact.”

The PMHA’s lawyer Erik Lund previously issued a statement on May 1, 2014 where he said the “reality of the legal world is that you can’t get blood from a stone … At this point it is unclear how Elder has (allegedly) disposed of the funds.”

“It appears there will be some difficulty in locating sufficient assets from the estate of Sandra Elder to satisfy the amount that we believe was embezzled,” Lund told the Western News last month.