Michael Elphicke was found guilty of major fraud and theft over $5,000 charges as well as operating an unauthorized lottery scheme in October. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Hockey fraudster won’t skate free on time-to-trial rule

Guilty charges stick for man who committed fraud against Okanagan hockey parents

An application to toss a guilty verdict on major fraud charges in the Okanagan, due to the lengthy time it took to get to trial, was denied by a judge in Penticton’s B.C. Supreme Court chambers Thursday.

Michael Elphicke was found guilty in October of fraud and theft over $5,000 and unauthorized operation of a lottery scheme, over the failed Okanagan youth hockey tour of Europe which was supposed to happen in 2012.

Related: Okanagan hockey fraudster found guilty on all accounts

Despite raising about $184,000 from parents and through a raffle scheme, which was not authorized by the B.C. Lottery Corporation, no hockey trip ever came about — by mid-January 2012, just $13,000 remained in the Okanagan Elite Hockey Association accounts.

Justice Bruce Greyell delivered his decision Thursday morning, after hearing the case for and against the Charter application on Wednesday.

The application stems from a summer 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in July 2016, in which the courts determined an accused undergoing a superior court trial should not have to wait more than 30 months between the time the charges are sworn and the trial’s finish.

Related: Elphicke could go free on time-to-trial rule

Related: Elphicke reportedly took $17,000 of hockey funds

Charges were sworn against Elphicke — as well as co-accused Loren Reagan, believed to be in Kuwait — in January 2015, but did not go to trial until September 2017, making 32.4 months to the end of trial.

One particular delay came in May 2016, when the Crown was forced to change counsels on the matter, as the lawyer at the time had been suffering health issues, with Crown counsel Patrick Fullerton filling in.

“It is difficult to ascribe a time delay resulting from this factor, because Mr. Elphicke decided at the pretrial conference proceeding … to change his plea,” Greyell added, referring to Elphicke’s change of election from a Provincial Court trial to Supreme Court.

“Mr. Fullerton was not made aware of that decision by Mr. Elphicke until just prior to May 13. That resulted in delay in this matter being scheduled in this court.”

Related: Alleged Okanagan hockey fraudster took money as failure loomed

With advanced notice of Elphicke’s change of trial mode election, Greyell said Fullerton could have taken steps to fix a date for the trial earlier.

Greyell also noted the issue of delays was raised more by Crown than by Elphicke and defence lawyer James Pennington following the May pretrial conference.

“In particular, the issue of delay was not raised when the dates for trial were being discussed in the period of February through September 2017.”

Related: Alleged hockey fraudster could face justice over Skype

During discussions held in fall 2016 on various dates to attempt to fix a date for the trial, it became clear there would be difficulties getting a trial before entering “Jordan territory.” While Pennington was available in early 2017 and into the summer, Reagan’s lawyer was not available for the five-week trial until November this year.

After thinning the trial down to three weeks through admissions in pretrial proceedings, it was determined the trial could run in summer this year in Kelowna or in September in Penticton.

Though all parties agreed the issue was born and bred in Penticton and should be heard in the city, the Crown and judge agreed it would be best to do the trial at earliest convenience, even if that had to be held in Kelowna. But Pennington took issue with moving the trial up the valley.

Related: Elphicke painting Penticotn hockey fraud as one-man scam

“Elphicke was given the opportunity by both Justices Cullen and Weatherill to have the trial heard in Kelowna, where there were more courtrooms and court judges available,” Greyell said.

“While there is no evidence on the record as to when the trial might have been heard, had it been moved to Kelowna, it is clear to me from the comments of the associate chief justice and Justice Weatherill that that time could have been found, had the matter heard in Kelowna, within the Jordan time.”

On top of benefiting from just under $20,000 of hockey parent and raffle money from the OEHA, in his verdict Greyell also found Elphicke culpable in the tens of thousands of dollars that went toward Reagan, having signed off on numerous blank cheques for his business partner, who reportedly raked in nearly $40,000.

Related: Alleged hockey fraudster ‘embarassed’ widow

Another $44,000 went toward Reagan’s failed hockey dorm project in Penticton, a forensic accountant testified during trial.

Both Fullerton and Pennington said last they heard Reagan was still out of the country.

Elphicke, who appeared for his verdict hearing over video from a Calgary hospital in October, was not present for the decision on Thursday.

A pre-sentence report will be ordered prior to the sentencing hearing, which Greyell, retiring early next week, will not preside over.

Related: Loren Reagan skates off on hockey fraud trial


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP bust five impaired drivers in one day in Terrace and Kitimat

Police were doing road checks as part of distracted driving, seatbelt enforcement campaign

Horgan makes campaign stop in Terrace and Kitimat

BC NDP leader met with local First Nations leaders, reiterated campaign promises

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Federal child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Most Read