Michael Elphicke has been found guilty of major fraud charges stemming from a failed youth hockey trip to Europe.
Elphicke was one of two men accused, but the only one to stand trial in September, with co-accused Loren Reagan skipping trial. Elphicke has said he last heard Reagan was in Kuwait working for an oil company.
Though found guilty, the hearing does not quite put an end to Elphicke’s court proceedings. His lawyer has put forth a Charter application to have the charges tossed out, citing the Jordan ruling, which limits the time to trial for superior court cases to 30 months from when the charges were sworn.
By the end of Elphicke’s trial, it had been about 32 months.
Elphicke and Reagan were both charged with fraud and theft over $5,000 and unauthorized operation of a lottery scheme, over the failed youth hockey tour of Europe which was supposed to happen in fall 2012.
Despite raising about $184,000 from parents and through a raffle scheme, which was not authorized by the B.C. Lottery Corporation, no hockey trip ever came about — by mid-January 2012, just $13,000 remained in the Okanagan Elite Hockey Association accounts.
“The Crown has established Mr. Elphicke was more than a beguiled innocent bystander led astray,” Justice Bruce Greyell said in the verdict hearing Thursday morning.
“Mr. Elphicke was actively involved in using OEHA funds for purposes he knew he should not be using and in which he knew was placing the funds at risk.”
Elphicke appeared over video in the Penticton courthouse from a Calgary hospital, where he had part of his foot amputated due to an infection. Elphicke is on dialysis treatment due to kidney failure, and suffers from diabetes.
Greyell said the collapse of the OEHA began in July 2011, when Reagan and Elphicke began paying money from the organization’s bank accounts to themselves, with Elphicke and his wife ultimately taking about $19,000 for themselves. The remainder of the money went to Reagan and toward a hockey dorm project.
Though Elphicke asserted that hockey dorm project was Reagan’s alone, with Elphicke only acting as a minor consulting role, Crown lawyer Patrick Fullerton asserted Elphicke was downplaying his role. And even if he hadn’t maintained a major role in that project, Fullerton noted Elphicke was co-signing the checks that went to that project, which Elphicke said he had expected to be paid back.
Greyell pointed to Elphicke’s early attempts at intervention as indicators he was aware of the potential consequences of their actions.
“The problematic issue for Mr. Elphicke in this case is that his conduct thereafter changed and changed within a very short manner of weeks,” Greyell said of Elphicke’s attitude following his mandating all cheque be co-signed.
“He continued to provide a spendthrift Mr. Reagan with blank, signed cheques, five at a time, sometimes more at a time.”
Elphicke argued he was legally using money from his business, which he maintained was his legal right, but Greyell shot that down, and said Elphicke indicated through his actions that he was aware that the money was to be going specifically to the hockey trip and related expenditures.
Parents that testified throughout the trial that they had never been told the money would be going toward anything but the Europe trip, and Elphicke acknowledged in emails at the time that the word “association” in the organization’s name would indicate the venture were not for profit.
Greyall also found Elphicke guilty of unauthorized operation of a lottery scheme for the raffle draws the OEHA operated throughout the process, and of theft over $5,000, pointing specifically to paying OEHA money toward his son’s hockey expenses.
Elphicke has yet to be sentenced on the matter, which still isn’t over. A Charter of Rights application regarding time to trial could toss his charges out.
A pretrial conference on that is scheduled for next week.