Three years later, still no one charged in Central Okanagan school PAC fraud investigations | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Three years later, still no one charged in Central Okanagan school PAC fraud investigations

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September 18, 2021 - 6:05 PM

Tens of thousands of dollars were pilfered from three Okanagan Parent Advisory Councils in the last three years but only one thief has made her way through court, while the others still haven't been charged.

Belinda Yorke was sentenced Sept. 17, after she stole from the Oliver Elementary School PAC between June, 2016 and January, 2018. She will not go to jail but has to repay more than $10,000 to the PAC.

READ MORE: Former Oliver Elementary School PAC treasurer avoids jail time after stealing almost 11K

She pled guilty to a single charge of theft over $5,000 on Feb. 24, 2020 but it took until Sept. 17 for her to be sentenced after delays for health reasons.

That’s lightning speed compared to what’s happened in the Central Okanagan.

The theft of an estimated $20,000 from the Glenrosa Elementary School PAC was discovered in September 2018 but it wasn’t until January 2020 that the PAC vice-president, Ashlee Cameron, learned the RCMP file was open and moving ahead.

READ MORE: Investigation into theft from West Kelowna school's PAC finally moving ahead

After a year, the PAC had not recovered any of that money and struggled to provide services.

“Teachers’ wish lists weren’t met and parents paid more for field trips,” Cameron told iNFOnews.ca in January 2020. “But with some lovely help from quite a few of our parents and some fundraisers… it took four months to get into good standing. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears for a lot of parents, but no kids went without this year.”

Police say the investigation is continuing but were unable to be more specific by publication time.

A few months after the Glenrosa theft was uncovered, in December of 2018, it was discovered that roughly the same amount of money had been stolen from the South Rutland Elementary School PAC and an RCMP investigation had started.

“The investigation into the allegations in Rutland has been submitted to the B.C. Prosecution Service for review and charge approval,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, the RCMP’s communications officer, said in an email to iNFOnews.ca.

“We have overcome tremendous challenges over the past couple of years," South Rutland PAC president Toni Koryakuss told iNFOnews.ca. “We definitely have an incredible good news story with where we are now financially and what we have been able to do for our school and our kids. Thousands of volunteer hours have been put into rectifying the situation.”

With the help of a local law firm, the person who took the money is slowly paying them back. The Rutland business community pitched in and events like movie nights in a park that drew 1,000 spectators have helped restore the funds.

The missing money had not been earmarked for any specific project and the first year was focused on restoring the bank balance and paying off debts in the community, Koryakuss said.

Construction has now started on a playground project that the new funds are paying for.

“We voted on having a playground enhancement and having something fairly large for our community to see where the funds went and something that our school can enjoy for many, many years to come,” Koryakuss said.

The Central Okanagan School Board announced in January 2019 it would help those two PACs with bridge financing, mostly through loans, so students would not suffer.

South Rutland did not take up that offer, Koryakuss said. Since the PAC was already in debt they didn't want to take on more.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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