The best defence for a man accused of fraud and theft over $5,000 and operating an unauthorized lottery scheme appears to be a good offence.
Michael Elphicke has pleaded not guilty to the charges over a prolonged incident in 2011 and 2012, in which he, his wife Tana and Loren Reagan organized a failed hockey trip to Europe for local youth.
But while Reagan is the apparent prime suspect for the fraud case, Elphicke’s defence is attempting to paint it as a one-man scam, with Elphicke claiming not only not to be guilty, but to be a complainant in the matter.
Elphicke and Reagan, former business partners, have both been charged in the incident, in which parents raised upwards of $125,000 through their own contributions and fundraising efforts, including an unlicensed raffle draw.
But while an initial deposit of $15,000 was made to a European tour company, when it came time to invest more, an account that should have had well over $100,000 in it had just $13,000 left.
Reagan is accused of using the funds to buy personal items, like food, clothing and liquor, while Elphicke is accused of taking in a personal salary from the efforts. Money also reportedly went to a failed hockey dorm project, for which both men and the City of Penticton faced lawsuits.
But with Reagan reportedly working for an oil company in Kuwait, telling his former lawyer he was aware that a warrant for his arrest would be issued if he failed to appear for his trial, the trial goes on for Elphicke, whose defence appears to be targeting Reagan as the sole architect of the scam.
In court Monday, after Reagan’s lawyer Kim Ross pulled out of the proceedings, the court heard from Cpl. Chad Parsons, who said he began investigating the case when he was assigned to it in early 2012, after Ken Whitehead filed a complaint to the RCMP in February that year.
In his investigation, Parsons told the court he followed documents from banks showing the unincorporated organization’s official beginnings, including documents naming Elphicke as one of the signatories for the Okanagan Elite Hockey Association.
The OEHA was set up to organize hockey parents for the European trip, which was to cost about $5,500 per traveller.
In documents, Elphicke is named as the assistant general manager, with Reagan at the top spot, and Elphicke’s wife, who was never legally implicated in the fraud case, as the secretary treasurer.
The organization’s official address, too, was Elphicke’s own address in Winfield at the time.
But when defence lawyer James Pennington questioned Parsons on the documents he presented in court Monday morning, he noted several documents only contained the signature of Reagan.
One document had been altered to change from referring to “two partners” to just “one partner,” with nearby initials for Reagan and what was believed in court to be a Bank of Montreal employee.
In fact, by the time Parsons had interviewed Elphicke in August 2013, Pennington said Elphicke had filed his own complaint to the Lake Country RCMP for alleged theft from the OEHA by Reagan.
Parsons acknowledged that complaint, saying he was aware of it, and was mindful of that complaint when he interviewed Parsons in Kelowna for the first time. At the time, Parsons said he believed Elphicke to be aware that he was a suspect in the fraud case.
Meanwhile, Whitehead, the original complainant in the case, told the court he had had dealings with both Elphicke and Reagan when fundraising for the European hockey trip.
In particular, he said prior to when news came down that there was no lottery licence for the organization’s raffle draws, communications from both men appeared to indicate the group was licensed.
When speaking of filing copies of the ticket stubs and receipts, both men reportedly told the group of parents that it was necessary, or it could jeopardize the licence.
Elphicke’s trial is scheduled for a full three weeks, but with Reagan now out of the picture — at least for the time being — Crown lawyer Patrick Fullerton told the Western News he expected the trial to be shortened, but couldn’t say how much.