A former councillor of the Squamish Nation has been found guilty of defrauding the nation out of about $1 million and using it for her own purposes.
Former band councillor and department head Krisandra Jacobs, 57, was found guilty of charges of fraud and theft Friday (Nov. 5) by North Vancouver provincial court Judge Lyndsay Smith.
In handing down her decision, Smith said she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Jacobs had deliberately crafted a scheme whereby she used her powerful position in the Nation’s political structure to bypass financial checks and balances and obtain money for her own purposes.
“I have no doubt Ms. Jacobs committed deceitful acts” that deprived the Squamish Nation of funds, Smith wrote in her decision.
At the time of the fraud, between April 2011 and May 2014, Jacobs and the Nation’s elected band manager Glen Newman were in charge of an emergency fund meant as a fund of last resort for Nation members in need. Usually, requests for emergency assistance came through legitimate channels and were backed up with proper documentation afterwards.
'Shadow process' used
But during the trial, several witnesses who worked in the Nation’s finance department described how Jacobs had set up an additional “shadow process” that she used to circumvent those controls.
Frequently Jacobs would email requests for money and ask that clerks come in on weekends to issue cheques to her, when she knew nobody who should formally approve the cheques would be working, Smith noted.
Jacobs refused to provide any documentation of what she was using the money for, the judge added, citing the need for confidentiality.
But Smith said she didn’t believe the privacy argument, concluding instead that it was “a lie in an effort to prevent her false and dishonest scheme from being discovered.”
An internal investigation was eventually launched by a band chief operating officer, Walter Schneider, who noticed that Jacobs was among the top 50 payees of the Squamish Nation.
Schneider, a chartered professional accountant and Squamish Nation member who lived off-reserve his whole life, testified during the trial how after he was hired in 2013 he began a review of the Nation’s accounts and noticed a large number of cheques being issued through the band manager’s emergency fund.
Red flags raised
Schneider said he knew about other typical amounts paid from the fund, such as emergency help with food and rent payments.
“But then I started to see these other payments in there that no one mentioned, to Krisandra Jacobs and to Glen Newman. And that obviously raised a significant flag for me,” he testified.
Schneider testified he eventually looked back through accounts dating back to 2003.
Although a detailed analysis only focused on one or two years, “if I look at the pattern, it was, you know, upwards of $8 million, the payments going to Krissy and Glen,” he testified during the trial.
Following the internal investigation, Jacobs and Newman were both suspended then fired from their positions, and the Squamish Nation took the results of its internal investigation to the RCMP.
In handing down her decision, Smith noted Jacobs requested and received 422 cheques during the time of the fraudulent scheme. Frequently after receiving the cheques, she would deposit a similar amount into personal bank accounts, said Smith. That would often be followed by payments on personal cellphone accounts, credit cards and utility bills, Smith noted.
Banking records showed between April 2011 and May 2014, Jacobs and her husband brought in approximately $500,000 in legitimate income, yet spent about $880,000 in the same time period, Smith said.
Jacobs will be sentenced at a later date.