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learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
Posted Friday, July 9, 2010
OTTAWA - A former City of Ottawa employee accused of stealing more than $1.1
million from a charitable organization allegedly wired cash to her boyfriend, a
disbarred Ottawa lawyer once convicted of fraud who is now running for president
of Haiti, a court heard Wednesday.
|Ottawa woman charged with
defrauding charity of more than $1.1
|By Andrew Seymour,
Citizen Staff Writer
The allegations emerged during a bail hearing for Yolande Knight, 46, the former
director of finance for Total Communication Environment, a provincially funded
agency that provides care to about 90 adults with multiple disabilities. Knight
is charged with fraud, theft, breach of trust, forgery and possession of the
proceeds of crime for allegedly using her corporate credit cards to pay for
personal purchases over a nearly eight-year period between 2001 and 2009.
Publication bans in bail hearings are automatically granted when requested by
the defence and discretionary when requested by the Crown - on the grounds that
the Crown gets to present its case with little reply from the defence - although
no such request was made in Knight's case.
|Rene St.Fort (C), the convicted attorney,
who is now a crook Haitian presidential
A Crown prosecutor alleged Knight, who testified that she had worked for the
city's finance department since May, used the credit cards to pay for everything
from hairdressing, gym memberships, groceries, gasoline, clothing and
landscaping for a private residence to airline tickets and limousine rentals in
Haiti, where her boyfriend, Rene St. Fort, is running for president.
A city spokesman reached after the hearing said Knight no longer works for the
city, but wouldn't elaborate on when or why she left.
Knight would pay off the unapproved expenses, which ranged from $673.03 to as
high as $40,500 in any given month, from company funds, which she controlled,
Knight, who covered her head with a scarf after her release Wednesday on a
$40,000 bond, also made a dozen wire transfers totalling $63,286.14 to St. Fort,
his brother Eddy St. Fort and three other men, prosecutors said. The alleged
wire transfers to Rene St. Fort were sent to Haiti and Paris, while Knight
allegedly sent money to Eddy St. Fort in Florida, another two men in Haiti and
another man in Montreal.
"The accused was identified in sending 12 transfers resulting in suspicious
transaction reports being generated under the Proceeds of Crime (money
laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act," said assistant Crown attorney Walter
De Venz, adding the transfers appeared to be structured to avoid detection by
St. Fort was sentenced to 18 months in jail in 2002 after being found guilty of
three counts of fraud over $5,000. A judge found that St. Fort defrauded three
banks of $351,000 by helping two women obtain mortgages using false names and
employment and credit information between June 1998 and May 1999.
According to his website, St. Fort is the head of the National Reform Party of
Haiti, though he resides in Chelsea, north of Ottawa. Attempts to reach him
Wednesday were not successful.
As part of her release conditions, Knight is barred from communicating with St.
Fort and the four other men to whom she allegedly wired money. St. Fort was
present when Knight was arrested on July 1 at the Ottawa-area home the Crown
alleges she bought for $530,000 during the time the frauds allegedly occurred.
Knight has debts of $500,000, court heard, including a $200,000 line of credit
that is maxed out.
The alleged fraud was discovered during an audit in 2009 and totalled
$1,115,827.40. Knight was suspended from her job at the charity last September
and later fired.
De Venz, who was opposed to Knight's release, argued that Knight's alleged
crimes were "repulsive" and that she was a flight risk given her connections to
St. Fort and Haiti.
But Knight's lawyer, Jean Claude Dubuisson, argued the single mother has only
been to Haiti once and was in New York for her father's funeral when she learned
the police were looking for her and still returned home.
"She has no criminal record. She's been living in Canada since she was 17 years
old," said Dubuisson, adding Knight's mother, 17-year-old daughter and sister
all live in Ottawa. Knight's next court date is July 21.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2010
Published Thursday, July 8, 2010.
|Wehaitians.com, the scholarly journal of
democracy and human rights