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.

Just Posted

FOLLOW-UP: Shelley Downey speaks on her Conservative candidacy

“I anticipate requesting a leave of absence from Port McNeill council,” Downey said.

B.C. to move salmon farms out of coastal migration route

Broughton Archipelago plan set to start in spring of 2019

New wind warning for most of Vancouver Island

Forecasters are calling for strong winds up to 90km/h for some areas

Mount Washington opening for winter season this weekend

The resort’s original opening day was delayed due to lack of snow

Shoebox Project: Local women in need to enjoy shoebox gifts

This year over 500 gift filled Shoeboxes were delivered in Campbell River and the North Island.

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

‘I practically begged’: Kootenay woman with breast cancer denied referral to Calgary

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Most Read