OPP union investigated for fraud, theft
Postmedia Network File
Senior executives with the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) were involved in fraudulent schemes to enrich themselves at the expense of the organization, a RCMP search warrant alleges.
RCMP Sgt. Gordon Aristotle, in an Information to Obtain (ITO) released Friday, sought the records of OPPA president Jim Christie, vice-president Martin Bain and chief administration officer Karl Walsh, as well as those of lawyer Andrew MacKay, Klara Kozak and Noel Francis Chantiam
The investigators were also after paper and electronic records related to PIN Consulting Group, Leximco Travel, First Response Travel Group and an “unknown offshore company.”
The ITO says there are reasonable grounds to believe that Bain, Christie and Walsh committed the offence of theft, criminal breach of trust, fraud and laundering the proceeds of crime, and that McKay, Kozak and Chantiam committed the offences of fraudulent concealment, laundering the proceeds of crime and fraud.
No charges have been laid and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
Acting OPPA president Doug Lewis said in a statement that he was, “saddened and shocked to learn of the allegations contained in the document.”
Lewis thanked the OPPA staff for their professionalism and commitment during what he described as a very difficult week.
The OPPA is co-operating fully with the RCMP investigation and would not be commenting further, he said.
Aristotle’s ITO says employees of the OPPA — the organization representing over 6,200 uniformed members 3,600 civilian members — complained to police in October regarding suspected fraudulent activity.
“I believe that the subjects of investigation have organized various schemes, some which include companies for which they hold hidden beneficial ownership, that have been set up in order to obtain exclusive rights for services required by the OPPA,” Aristotle says. “These services pertain to but are not limited to the travel and investment needs of the OPPA. In addition, some of the services offered by these companies are being promoted to the OPP membership throughout the province.”
For example, OPPA employees were told to use exclusively a company called First Response Travel Group for all the organization’s travel needs.
The OPPA employees told investigators that First Response provides inferior service at inflated prices, Aristotle’s ITO says.
The ITO says that the company is owned by Walsh, Christie, Bain, McKay, Chantiam and Kozak but the OPPA board of directors were not made aware of the potential conflict of interest.
Two condos in Nassau, Bahamas — valued at $1.6 million and $625,000 — were purchased as an “investment” for OPPA, a non-profit agency.
Another “high risk” investment in the Cayman Islands was made.
“Walsh wired $100,015 of OPPA funds to the Cayman Islands to pay for shares in New Providence,” the ITO says. “Despite the potential for high yield return, this high-risk investment was counter to the historically conservative investment strategy of the OPPA.”
The alleged breach of trust had become so sophisticated that there was a lawyer, a man referred to as a nominee, consulting firm, travel company, offshore company and offshore investments involved “to profit and deceive the OPPA membership,” the ITO states.
In addition, allegations have surfaced that OPPA credit cards were used for personal purchases, and that OPPA members including Walsh, Bain and Christie claimed $144,000 beyond their salaries in the fiscal year 2014.
The March 6 RCMP raid has rocked the police union, leading to leaves of absence for Christie and Bain.
Walsh, a 2011 Ontario Liberal candidate in Barrie, was placed on administrative leave, and he declined an opportunity earlier this week to speak to a Sun Media reporter.
The OPPA, which has put new executives in place, notified OPP officers through a “blastout” news letter Thursday of the criminal offences being alleged in the Aristotle ITO filed in court.”
An OPPA spokesman said the information was provided to its members in the interest of transparency.
The newsletter states that an internal investigation is also underway by the independent legal firm of Stikeman Elliot under the oversight of acting CAO Michael Briscoe.
“The day-to-day operations of the Association continues with members services being out top priority,” the blastout says.
RCMP Const. Jean Juneau said Friday that the investigation is very much in its preliminary stages.
The ITO says that Martin McNamara, a police officer and OPPA executive, made the initial complaint to the OPP after becoming concerned about some activities at the union.
McNamara told investigators that he had become a sounding board for some OPPA employees who were ringing alarm bells and then later tried to find out why $5,000 was supposed to be paid to PIN Consulting of which he had no previous knowledge.
“A few days later, McNamara learned of two other transactions that did not make any sense to him; that the OPA had purchased a condo in the Bahamas and that the OPPA had wired funds from their bank account to the Cayman Islands for an Investment,” the ITO says. “McNamara was extremely upset by these transactions and the perception of money laundering.”
McNamara then learned that executives took a trip to the Bahamas as a “personal vacation” only to later claim they were working.
The situation became more uncomfortable for McNamara when he learned of links between First Response and an OPPA golf tournament, the ITO says.
At least two other employees, in accounting and IT at the OPPA, provided sworn testimony that they too had strong concerns about potential fraud.
Bain, Christie, Walsh, McKay, Kozak and Chantiam could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
The OPPA is currently in negotiations with the Ontario government for a new collective agreement for OPP officers.
Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi said this week that bargaining was continuing under the OPPA’s new leadership.