Members of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation hugged their chief outside Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench on Friday as the band’s former accountant admitted stealing cash from the people he used to work for.
Hugo Edgardo Gallegos, 41, is accused of pocketing more than $1 million from the Saskatchewan First Nation just south of Saskatoon, between January 2009 and July 2013. The amount he admitted to stealing was not revealed in court, however, he did plead guilty to two counts of theft over $5,000 and two counts of fraud over $5,000.
Gallegos also pleaded guilty to laundering the proceeds of crime and possession of property obtained by crime.
Darcy Bear, chief of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, said the guilty pleas have been a long time coming.
“I was expecting it could be a not guilty plea today, but certainly it’s good to see that there’s finally some closure here on the guilty pleas,” he said outside of court.
“There’s always been a lot of delay tactics, so I was just expecting another delay tactic today but that didn’t happen, and so this step is out of the way, now we look forward to September 2.”
That’s when Gallegos is expected to be sentenced. Bear would not comment on what length of sentence he would like to see.
The Whitecap Dakota First Nation is also seeking compensation from a bank and an auditing company for not catching the multi-million dollar fraud sooner.
Their recently filed statement of claim alleges the Royal Bank should have been suspicious about the high dollar amount of the cheques, and KPMG should have uncovered the transactions during its annual audits.
This statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court, and RBC and KPMG have not commented on the lawsuit or filed statements of defence.
The lawsuit lays out detailed allegations as to how Gallegos may have transferred a large amount of money to accounts held by himself and his mother, via more than 1,700 cheques totaling $5.8 million.
“Gallegos cultivated a relationship with the RBC branch tellers and other employees. Gallegos then exploited this relationship to gain the RBC employees’ trust and confidence, all of which restrained the employees from making reasonable and necessary inquiries into Gallegos’s huge volume of unusual transactions,” the statement reads.
“RBC was, or ought to have been aware, that Whitecap did not write cheques to its other employees in anywhere near the number and total of the cheques written to Gallegos, if at all.”
RBC spokesman Robb Ritchie said Friday the bank would not comment on the case, citing “client confidentiality and the litigation surrounding this matter”.
KPMG did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
– With files from the Canadian Press
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