The lawsuit between the Penticton Minor Hockey Association and its former treasurer may finally be moving ahead after a drawn out process to serve one of the defendants.
“It’s your obligation to find me” was the response from Samantha Elder to the process server according to court documents obtained by the Western News.
Elder is one of nine defendants along with her brother Mathew, father Mark and five John Does in the lawsuit between the PMHA and the estate of its former treasurer, Sandra Elder, who died of cancer in July 2013.
The lawsuit filed May 21, 2014 alleges that Sandra Elder altered cheques and faked invoices to embezzle more than $300,000 from the hockey organization. She served as treasurer from 2001 until her death in July, 2013.
A court order was made for the alternative service of Samantha on April 22 after extensive efforts were made to find her, according to the documents, including the use of a third-party tracing company which was unable to locate her, aside from the one phone call where she identified herself and put the onus on the plaintiffs to find her.
Alternative service allows the defendant to be served with a notice of claim if they “cannot be found after a diligent search, or is evading service of the documents,” according to rule 4-4 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.
Elder’s response to the civil claim is due May 22.
“That’s really when things will start to move forward,” said PMHA lawyer Erik Lund.
Lund believes Elder is likely to respond in time.
“Just on the basis that the other two (Mark and Matthew) have retained a lawyer.”
With Samantha being officially served a year after the initial filing, Lund said tracking her down has pushed the case back.
“It’s proceeding a little slower than anticipated. The difficulty of course, we had a hard time tracking down Samantha Elder, we weren’t able to effect personal service. We wanted to do that, but it just wasn’t practical so we proceeded with alternate service.”
Lund said the next step is to proceed to discovery, an exchange of documents between the parties.
The lawsuit alleges that Sandra Elder transferred some or all of the funds to the long list of defendants “for their use, benefit and enjoyment in the form of money, goods, services, and support.”
The five John Does listed as defendants alongside her estate and family are described as unknown persons or entities that “benefitted from or received funds belonging to the PMHA.”
A forensic audit allegedly found evidence that $315,650 was misappropriated between May 2010 and April 2013 through altered cheques, falsified receipts and records, plus cash transactions for referee payments and concession revenue.
However, it may be tough to recuperate those funds.
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.”
That stance hasn’t changed much in the last year according to Lund.
“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 said.