Penticton Minor Hockey Association is apparently out more than $300,000 and reports its former treasurer is to blame.
In a statement issued Thursday, PMHA said it had “fallen victim to a sophisticated embezzlement scheme” allegedly carried out by Sandy Elder, who handled the organization’s finances from 2001 to July 2013, when she died of cancer.
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.
PMHA president Bruce Judd declined comment and referred questions to lawyer Erik Lund. The statement said Judd became suspicious after Elder died and called in a forensic auditor, but decided not to make the matter public until after the investigation.
“Now that the investigation is complete, litigation is expected to commence against Ms. Elder’s estate,” Lund said in the statement, which noted the RCMP have also been alerted.
“In cases such as these, it can be very difficult for victims to locate and execute on sufficient funds or assets. It is an unfortunate reality of the legal world that you can’t get blood from a stone … At this point it is unclear how Elder has (allegedly) disposed of the funds.”
At least one PMHA member knew nothing of the matter before being told Thursday about the press release.
“This is the first I’ve heard,” said atom coach Tony Orioli.
When told of the amount missing, he said, “Oh, wow. That’s unfortunate.”
The Western News learned of the investigation in January, but Judd denied it at that time.
“Whoever told you that is wrong. If you print it, you’re wrong. You would be liable for being sued,” he said.
At a closed-door meeting in October 2013, the PMHA board of directors earmarked $25,000 for what the meeting minutes describe as an “investigation of a current legal matter.”
Sources said the cash was set aside for a lawsuit involving the missing money, but Judd denied that too.
“We put that in for a contingency for the future because we had an accident in October with a player. We might be sued,” he said in January.
The minutes for the October 2013 meeting also show the board that night acted on a recommendation from Scotiabank that only executive members be granted signing authority. PMHA apparently tightened up its cash handling procedures in other ways this past season.
In his year-end report for 2013-14, vice-president Paul DeShane noted that following Elder’s death, “I invested significant time supporting the extraordinary efforts of the president in sustaining the financial aspect of operations, recovering and organizing records as well as implementing changes to internal processes and control.”
Elder’s family couldn’t be reached for comment.