Former employee accused of $1M fraud at foster care agency

Danielle Ballantyne

The Winnipeg Police Service headquarters in downtown Winnipeg. Photo: APTN News file

A 46-year-old woman from Winnipeg is facing several charges related to a million-dollar fraud case at Shawenim Abinoojii Inc. (SAI) – an Indigenous-run foster care agency in Manitoba.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) said it has charged Gwendolen Joyce Reid with fraud, forgery and theft.

Reid was the former finance manager at the agency, which provides home placement and support worker services to Southeast Child and Family Services.

“This is a very significant fraud,” said police spokesperson Rob Carver, who used to be an investigator in the fraud squad.

“We don’t normally see frauds into the seven figures in our investigations here.”

Carver said Reid, who is free on her own recognizance, is charged with fraud over $5,000, two counts of forgery, use of a forged document, theft over $5,000, unauthorized use of credit card data, and falsification of books and documents.

The charges against Reid have not been proven in court.

Carver said the agency alerted police to potential fraudulent transactions dating back to March 2016 and continuing until April 2019. The transactions include: fraudulent cheques totalling $743,110, fraudulent payroll transactions totalling $222,432, and unauthorized credit card charges and cash advances totalling $42,000.

Carver said “not much” of the $1,007,542 was recovered.

Suspected wrongdoing

Shawenim Abinoojii Inc. (SAI) executive director Jason Whitford confirmed the agency tipped police to suspected wrongdoing and provided its records for police to review.

“SAI has since worked in cooperation with the WPS from the period of April 2019 to November 2019,” he said in a statement emailed to APTN News.

The investigation took a toll on staff, Whitford added, noting the agency has filed an insurance claim to cover the losses.

The “investigation process have been a very challenging experience for the SAI organization…although SAI programming and services have maintained a high level of standard,” his statement added.

Whitford said the organization, whose name in Ojibway translates “to nurture-love the child,” has faith in the process.

“Our organization has confidence the justice system will bring accountability to this serious matter,” he said.

Reid was fired after alleged financial irregularities came to light.

“She was in a position of very high authority,” Carver noted.

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