Former Glengarry Highland Games treasurer sentenced

The front entrance to the Cornwall courthouse at 29 Second Street West. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

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CORNWALL – The former treasurer of the Kenyon Agricultural Society and the Glengarry Highland Games has been given a house arrest sentence of two years less a day for her role in defrauding the society and her employer.

Jullie Robertson, 55, was sentenced Wednesday (June 9) in a Cornwall courtroom after being found guilty on two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of forgery.

She has been a financial controller at Cruickshank Construction for 30 years and treasurer of the Kenyon Agricultural Society and Glengarry Highland Games since 2009. The society owns the fairgrounds where the Games are held.

In a statement of facts read by Judge Diane Lahaie, court heard how Robertson had transferred $603,285 over three years from Cruickshank Construction to the Kenyon Agricultural Society “to cover obligations resulting from her negligence and the errors she committed while acting as the treasurer of these organizations.”

Lahaie says Robertson “only marginally benefited personally” from her actions and confessed when arrested in relation to the Cruickshank Construction fraudulent activity. During her confession to police about defrauding her employer, Robertson explained how she had become “overwhelmed” running the books for both her employers, the society and the Games.

When the fraud was discovered at Cruickshank, Robertson was fired. She had worked for Cruickshank since she was 15 years old.

Money issues were discovered when a cheque for a Games vendor bounced while forged cheques were found by the new treasurer.

When society members went to the bank to investigate, they found “shocking results,” Lahaie said. The $400,000 GIC fund, which was used as collateral by the bank for the Games to run a negative balance on their operating bank account, had been drawn down to $125,000. The Highland Games chequing account had a negative balance of $97,000 and the $10,000 Visa card had been maxed out. The society’s chequing account had $600 in it and its $70,000 line of credit had been maxed out too.

The large wire transfers from Cruickshank Construction had gone into the accounts and then were almost immediately withdrawn by Revenue Canada. Members would learn the society and the Games both lost their registered charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency because annual paperwork hadn’t been filed since 2011. The federal government was collecting $414,000 in back taxes.

When the Games president and his wife rebuilt the QuickBooks accounting software, which had also been neglected for years, they found that the Games lost money the previous year, HST returns hadn’t been filed for nearly five years and “there were currently 18 tax returns in arrears.”

Other financial irregularities were discovered when a new treasurer took over in 2018. As well, Glengarry Highland Games President Eric Metcalfe discovered an extra $7,500 had been taken out over four years by Robertson for “additional honorariums,” over and above the $1,500 the society agreed to pay her yearly for her services.

Over 124 cheques were forged with signatures of various entities within the society and the Games. Court heard how a 2017 auditor’s statement for the Kenyon Agricultural Society also had doctored signatures.

“Since the discovery of the frauds and forgeries, the Glengarry Highland Games committee had to cash out the remaining GIC fund ($125,000). With this money, they paid off the line of credit and the Visa for the Games. Further, they paid invoices owing including their insurance payments which had not been paid since August 2017. The total for all of these debts was $56,000. To generate enough money to cover off the debt of the Highland Games, the committee had to resort to personal loans from some of the committee members. Mr. Metcalfe advised the Glengarry Highland Games has no money but intends to carry on and continue with the Games,” Lahaie recounted.

Offender ‘living on savings’ at family home

Robertson, 55, is single and has no children. She has a high school diploma and completed three years of a four year degree program in accounting. Robertson is “living on savings” and the proceeds of the sale of her home. She lives with her parents in Maxville. She is in remission and “stable” after suffering from leukemia in 2018. She received a stem cell transplant and also suffers from a number of other health issues, some of which affect her eyesight.

The Crown had been seeking two-and-a-half to three years in prison and a lifetime ban of having control over financial property of another. The defence had argued for a two years less a day conditional sentence.

Judge Lahaie noted that Robertson has been remorseful and while acknowledgment of guilt didn’t come early, partly because of Robertson’s health and the pandemic, she has spared the court a lengthy trial.

Lahaie also noted that Robertson’s negligence was not criminal behaviour.

“Although the Glengarry Highland Games and the Kenyon Agricultural Society were undoubtedly shocked to discover their financial predicament and loss of charitable status, Ms. Robertson’s actions for the most part constituted negligence rather than criminal behaviour.”

The judge also explained that some of the blame for the money problems fall on the society and the Games.

“The checks and balance system of auditing the books was not performed. Although this does not excuse the offender’s behaviour, it is important to note that had the auditing procedure been followed, much of what happened to these organizations would not have happened as Ms. Robertson’s behaviour would have been detected much earlier,” Lahaie said.

First year of sentence under house arrest

For the first year of her sentence, Robertson has to stay in her home except for three hours on a Sunday afternoon to get the necessities of life. For the remainder of the sentence, she will be on a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, except for medical emergencies.

She will be on probation for two years after completing her sentence.

She will have to make restitution of $100,000 to Steve Cruickshank (the company was sold to Coco Paving in June 2018, the company claimed the loss through insurance though Steve Cruickshank suffered a net loss of $100,000).

Robertson’s lawyer, Ryan Langevin, already had $7,500 in trust to pay restitution immediately to the society and Games for the additional honorariums that were taken by Robertson.

Robertson is not allowed to be in control or volunteer for any organization where she is in control of finances for the rest of her life.