Lawsuit launched by Penticton Minor Hockey Association

Family of former treasurer accused of embezzling $315,000 named in statement of claim, which also lists five John Does as defendants

Three family members are among eight people listed as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Penticton Minor Hockey Association against the estate of a former treasurer accused of embezzlement.

The PMHA alleges Sandy Elder misappropriated more than $315,000 over three years, according to a forensic audit conducted on its finances following her death in 2013.

A copy of the statement of claim wasn’t immediately available, but a summary of the case on B.C.’s online court registry lists five John Does plus Elder’s husband, Mark, and two children, Matthew and Samantha, as defendants.

The association on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Elder’s estate in a bid to recoup some of that money.

PMHA lawyer Erik Lund on Wednesday told a room full of concerned parents at the association’s annual general meeting that it could be difficult to actually recover any money.

“It’s impossible to say whether there are any assets or not that can be recovered,” said Lund, adding he’s also been in contact with the Penticton RCMP.

“They are conducting a parallel and thorough investigation of their own into the criminal aspect of this,” said Lund.

Penticton RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said they now have a copy of the forensic audit and “we’re reviewing same and we’re following up on any information from what we’ve heard.”

“We are looking at that forensic audit to make sure we’ve covered all the bases,” he said.

“We’ve also received some information via Crime Stoppers that we’re also following up on.

“It’s not the only reason we are having a further look into the matter, but it is part and parcel.

“That and the audit and the other things that we’ve heard.”

Dellebuur added if it wasn’t for the tip providing further information, they would not consider criminal charges against Elder.

“There has been other information that has surfaced so we want to make sure that there is nothing valid as far as all the innuendo and rumours that have been floating around,” he said, such as others being involved.

“If it’s not criminal and we see it looks like her, it will be the end of our investigation and they can do whatever they want civilly,” he said.

Blaine Peterson, a former PMHA director, asked Lund how the money went missing under the eye of a professional accounting firm and the board.

“Who is accountable to check that on behalf of our membership?” he said.

Lund answered that the embezzlement scheme was quite sophisticated and, “at this point, I’m certainly not in a position to say whether there is or is not liability on the chartered accountants.

Craig Finer asked if any effort was made to evaluate the assets in Elder’s estate prior to spending $29,000 on the forensic audit.

Lund said a standard check was done, which revealed Elder had no real property registered in her name and no vehicles or usual assets, “the low hanging fruit so to speak.”

“So you have more than an educated opinion that it’s likely that we’re not going to recover anything? It certainly seems what you are suggesting,” Finer said.

“I am urging some restraint in terms of the level of optimism here,” Lund replied. “If a person was going to steal $300,000, they might not put it into a house registered in her own name and land title.”

Brian Hutcheson then asked about the future.

“I’m concerned about the damage that has been done,” said Hutcheson. “What is going to be done on behalf of the board to convince people in this town to keep investing in minor hockey?”

Lund suggested donors would get some comfort once results of the investigation are made “somewhat public,” and the litigation is concluded.

PMHA has also released its unaudited financial statements for the past season, which showed $176,896 in cash on hand, up from $98,098 the fiscal year ended April 30.

Registration fees were up by nearly $28,743 to $251,057 and tournament revenue increased by $34,936 to $162,232.