August 11, 2015 - 11:31 AM
KAMLOOPS — A former city councillor and director of the Kamloops Heritage Railway Society who shifted $100,000 of organization money into his account and back twice will face a $2,000 fine after pleading guilty to two counts under the province’s Society Act.
Joe Leong, 65, was originally charged with two counts of fraud, two counts of theft over $5,000 and breach of trust, which he pleaded not guilty to. Instead, Leong pleaded guilty in Kamloops Supreme Court today, Aug. 11, to failing to exercise his proper duties as a director of the society and not telling his fellow members about his actions.
In 2009, Leong agreed to become a board member to help restore a heritage locomotive for the city. Crown prosecutor Chris Balison said the society’s financials were in flux and in order to save money, the society laid off its bookkeeper and handed the duties off to Leong.
“In hindsight this turned out to be a mistake for the society and Leong,” Balison said adding the board was both “flexible and informal in its meetings."
The board received an annual $100,000 contribution from the city, but in the months prior to its use, the society used it to make short-term investments, Balison said.
Before the money came in, the society needed debt repayments. Leong offered to lend the society $9,000 of his own money to repay the debts.
“Mr. Leong was authorized to invest money on behalf of the society but not use it for his personal use. That is where (he) ran afoul,” Justice Dev Dley said.
Between February 2011 and March 2012, Leong and society president Glen Wideman agreed to invest the money contributed from the city, but Leong chose to use the money to pay off personal debts. He repaid the society within a short time frame and paid back the amount with interest.
In March, both Wideman and Leong signed a $100,000 cheque to Leong who placed the money in his personal account and returned back $100,150.
The moved money was discovered through an audit.
"He thought he was helping the society by paying more interest,” Balison said.
Crown and Leong’s lawyer Ken Walker made a joint recommendation on charging Leong under the Society Act which doesn’t offer suggestions on penalty.
"While this is a breach of the Society Act it is not the kind of circumstance where there has been a theft and an attempt to keep secret an illegal conversion of funds,” Dley said.
Dley ordered Leong to pay $1,000 per each count. Leong will face a one-year probation in which he is no longer permitted to act as a director for another society in the province.
-This story was edited at 12:45 p.m. August 11, 2015 to add details of the second $100,000 cheque.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015