CSU may get justice after last year’s fraud

After ten months of investigations and audits, criminal charges may soon be laid in relation to last year’s $196,000 Concordia Student Union (CSU) fraud.
Sgt. Detective Ginette Leduc of the Montreal Urban Community (MUC) Police fraud squad concluded her investigation on the fraud, about a month ago. The case is now before the crown prosecutors, who will decide whether or not to lay charges. Leduc refused to estimate when or if charges will be laid, but said punishment could range from a fine, community service, or even a few years behind bars.
“It depends on how big [the case] is, and it gets more complicated. [The crown prosecutors] have to know if there’s enough or not enough evidence to proceed,” added Leduc.
Late last November the CSU concluded their $15,000 internal forensic audit, which gathered data, and handed the inches-thick report over to the fraud squad.
Leduc deals with six to ten fraud cases a year, and rates the CSU’s case a medium-sized fraud. However, she seemed certain that justice would be served. “Small or big, a victim’s still a victim. Someone who’s been robbed and is worthy of justice.”
CSU’s vp finance Patrice Blais expressed feelings of exasperation a the length of the investigation. “I feel like, one step closer is still not close enough. It is about time.”
Blais also hasn’t heard if charges have been laid yet, but feel they are likely to come. Blais said justice will not be served until all the money has been returned, and the thief is placed behind bars. He added that if the criminal case is successful, the CSU might consider a civil case that would reclaim the stolen money.
Last fall it was discovered that a former CSU employee, who cannot be identified since no charges have been laid yet, had been stealing money from the union for months.
Although it took the union some time to figure out who it was, they did know blank checks were being written and signatures were forged. The total amount of money stolen was around a fifth of the total CSU annual budget, and $73,000 was from the 2000-2001 budget.
New measures in place
Immediately after the fraud was discovered, the signing privileges were changed and extra steps were out in place to check the signing procedure. The CSU has gone a step further by adding a new paid position.
According to CSU president Sabrina Stea, the CSU is looking to hire a controller, who will act as watch-dog on fund allocations to clubs and other expenses, and who will approve all check movements.
The controller will replace the old bookkeeper position and has power to dictate how funds are give out. The controller reports directly to the union, whereas the former bookkeeper answered to the execs.
Stea said the union wants to hire a professionally certified accountant, which means a salary of at least $50,000. Last year the bookkeeper made around $49,000 a year, and the current CSU executives, make $12,000.
“It’s really shitty what happened. I know the rest of the execs, I trust them. I have no reason not to trust them, but you don’t want to always feel anxious that someone might steal,” added Stea.
Excluding the fraud, the CSU is also shouldering a deficit of over $320,000, from previous years. This has been the result of over-spending by previous administrations, financial losses with the handbook, years of losses by CUSA Corp., and CSU orientation festivities that went into the red. Although it bothers both Blais and Stea, that they have a deficit, they said that their main goal should be providing services for students, not paying for the deficit.
“Our focus should not be to accumulate money, but to dispense services,” said Stea.

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