Charges have been laid against a 65-year-old woman following an RCMP investigation into the loss of more than $150,000 from a Tri-Cities baseball team's bank account.
Terri Michael has been charged with fraud and theft in connection to the Coquitlam Little League's (LL) lost funds, a case that began more than two years ago in light of the cancelled 2020 season due to COVID-19.
President Sandon Fraser said, in August 2020, more than $226,000 was missing. The discovery was made when Coquitlam LL started getting inquiries about refunds.
He said the money should have been sent out between May 12 and June 26 that year, but the team noticed it only had less than $3,000 in its account and immediately notified RCMP.
"Our investigators worked diligently throughout this two- and half-year investigation to gather evidence, identify and interview witnesses and support charges," said Sgt. Karrie Ellis of Coquitlam RCMP's general investigation section (GIS) in a statement today (May 12).
Michael was the lead suspect in the case. The Coquitlam resident was the league's treasurer between September 2014 and August 2020, Ellis added.
B.C. online court services said the date of offence took place on June 1, 2014.
Michael was charged Wednesday (May 10) with a count each of fraud and theft over $5,000.
She's since been released pending her next court appearance, set for May 19 in Port Coquitlam provincial court.
The missing money became a headscratcher for Coquitlam LL leadership.
It was a year after its all-star team, consisting players 10 to 12 years of age, represented Canada at the 2019 Little League World Series following provincial- and national-championship seasons to earn the honour.
Fraser explained the organization's financial records suggested a total of $229,971.31 should've been in its bank account at the time the incident was reported to local Mounties.
An independent accounting firm was also hired to examine the league's books in hopes of figuring out where the lost money ended up.
In the months that followed, support and recognition for Coquitlam LL poured in from Athletics alumni, local businesses and the community at large.
Many of the participating families at the time chose to forgive the refunds they were owed for the cancelled season to help the organization get back on its feet.
"This is a good reminder for all organizations to make sure they have everything in place," Fraser told the Tri-City News in October 2020.
"It's like insurance — you buy it hoping you’ll never need it."
Coquitlam RCMP added safe guards should be in place for any local sports organizations where large sums of money are being collected.
"No one person or family should be exclusively in charge of the money," spokepserson Cpl. Alexa Hodgins told the Tri-City News.
"Most organizations would have some kind of oversight system already — but if they don't, they should."
Anyone with information about the fraud investigation is encouraged to call Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 and quote file number 2020-21019.
- with files from Mario Bartel, Tri-City News