A former Squamish Nation councillor is on trial this week in North Vancouver provincial court, charged with allegedly defrauding and stealing almost $1 million from the Indigenous government whose interests she was supposed to represent.
Krisandra Lenore Jacobs, 56, faces one charge of defrauding the Squamish Nation of over $5,000 and another charge of theft of over $5,000 from the Squamish Nation. Jacobs is alleged to have committed the fraud in North Vancouver over a three-year period, between April 1, 2011 and May 2, 2014.
The criminal charges against Jacobs come more than six years after an independent civil investigation conducted for the Squamish Nation in 2014 revealed a significant portion of the band's "emergency fund" was not properly accounted for and two years after criminal charges were laid.
On Monday, prosecutor Shelley Hulko outlined the Crown’s theory to Judge Lyndsay Smith that Jacobs defrauded the Squamish Nation of “approximately one million dollars.”
At the time of the alleged fraud, Jacobs was elected co-chair of the nation but also a department head in communications and the band manager’s office. In that role, Jacobs was responsible for distributing emergency funds to members of the Squamish Nation in exceptional financial need. But while there was a formal process in place for band members to access those funds, said Hulko, a secondary process put in place by Jacobs and elected band manager Glen Newman involved Jacobs and Newman requesting that cheques be made out to them directly so they could hand out cash.
Over a three-year period, 422 cheques were made out to Jacobs, totalling almost $1 million, said Hulko, adding a number of the cheque requisitions came in after normal office hours.
Hulko said when Walter Schneider came to work for the Squamish Nation as executive operating officer in 2013, he began to examine where the emergency funds were going. “It was his investigation that led ultimately to the police investigation,” said Hulko.
RCMP Cpl. Chase Smith – at that time working with the North Vancouver detachment’s economic crime unit – testified Monday that while the actions of both Jacobs and Newman were examined, it was ultimately determined that Newman had likely used the funds received for the intended purpose “albeit with really poor record keeping.” But Jacobs “either had no record keeping or didn’t want to provide it,” said Smith.
Smith said in some instances, cheques were deposited into accounts of either Jacobs or her husband and records pointed to her attendance at a casino a short time later.
Squamish Nation employee Donalene Rapada, who worked in the finance department, testified that she raised concerns about Jacobs’ cheque requests with her supervisor, adding she was concerned that those requests weren’t following the proper process and back-up documentation wasn’t being provided.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer John Turner, Rapada agreed that Jacobs had indicated one reason she didn’t want to provide documents for the cheque requests was concern for the confidentiality of those band members seeking help through the emergency fund.
Following the initial investigation into the emergency funds by a lawyer hired by the Squamish Nation, both Jacobs and Newman were fired from their jobs, stripped of their authority and removed from their elected positions on council.
Both Newman and Schneider are expected to testify during the trial.
The trial continues.