A man wanted in Alberta on three dozen charges related to fraud, forgery, and identity theft has been working as the information technology administrator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association since last year.
Michael Tracey, 36, failed to appear in a Calgary court to face the charges in March 2013.
A warrant was then issued for his arrest.
Tracey moved to Newfoundland, where he went to work for the teachers’ union, helping run its computer system.
The NLTA collects personal information through its website from its thousands of members.
CBC News contacted Tracey at his NLTA office twice over the past couple of months.
In March, Tracey denied being the same man who is wanted in Alberta, and said he has “always been living in St. John’s.”
Last week, he again issued a denial when contacted by phone.
But CBC News spoke with witnesses in Calgary and reviewed court documents in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador that contradict those claims.
The NLTA declined interview requests, but issued a statement saying it will now launch its own probe.
“At this point, the NLTA has been presented with information from the media, not by law enforcement,” the statement noted. “We are taking steps now to investigate the allegations that have been presented.
“In keeping with NLTA policy, we cannot comment on matters that relate to potential court matters, or any matters potentially involving personnel. Once our investigation has taken place, the NLTA will communicate with our members as appropriate. If any member wishes to communicate further with us at this point, they may contact us directly.”
On Tuesday, the union posted a message to members on its website noting that it “took immediate action to revoke access of the named employee to the system and building” after being contacted by the CBC last week.
“While there is no allegation or indication of impropriety regarding private information of teachers, we are conducting an audit as part of our investigation to be assured that teacher data has not been inappropriately compromised,” the message noted.
“The NLTA’s hiring process includes extensive reference checks and, depending upon the position, the retention of an outside employment consultant. Once we have concluded our investigation, we will review our hiring practices and make any modifications that may be appropriate given the outcome of the investigation.”
Warrant issued in March 2013
While there has been an active warrant for Tracey’s arrest in Alberta since March 2013, police in Newfoundland have picked him up three times over the past year.
Tracey appeared in provincial court in St. John’s last month to plead guilty to unrelated charges — two counts of impaired driving and one for malicious damage under $5,000, plus two counts of failing to appear in court in Newfoundland. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
None of those arrests appear to have resulted in any action to enforce the Calgary warrant.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary won't talk about why not, citing privacy reasons.
"The RNC does not discuss an individual's past or potential criminal records," the force noted in an emailed statement.
But in general terms, police in Newfoundland say they do run checks for outstanding warrants whenever they pick someone up.
If they find someone arrested has a warrant outside the province, they contact local police there. It is then up to those police forces to decide what to do next.
Calgary Police would only confirm that there is an active warrant for Tracey, but said it is a warrant limited to Alberta.
Alleged crime spree
Tracey was charged in Alberta for an alleged crime spree that occurred in the weeks before and after Christmas 2012.
Among the alleged victims were a pawn shop, a jeweller, and an electronics store.
The three dozen charges filed include multiple counts of forgery, identity theft, identity fraud, and procuring identity documents, including a driver’s licence, birth certificate, and passport.
Aaron Curtis is the general manager of the southwest Calgary Visions Electronics store, which is identified in Alberta court documents as one of the businesses allegedly victimized.
CBC News sent Curtis a photo of Tracey taken at provincial court in St. John’s last month.
He recognized the man in the picture, but pulled surveillance video and checked store records to be sure.
"This is the gentleman that on Jan. 2, 2013, was the guy that used a fraudulent credit card to make a purchase of $5,000,” Curtis said in an interview.
“Once you sent me the photo, it was clear that this was the same guy.”
Curtis said a fake credit card was used to buy a 70-inch television from a newer sales associate.
He said the man in the photo returned twice to make more purchases, but was sent away.
'Once you sent me the photo, it was clear that this was the same guy.' - Vision Electronics general manager Aaron Curtis
“A lot of red flags were going off,” Curtis noted.
The manager of another store named in court documents also identified the man in the photo.
BettyAnn Gillespie, manager of a Paris Jewellers location in Calgary, said he is the same person who used stolen ID to apply for a credit card and buy a watch and chain worth $3,000.
The Michael Tracey charged in Alberta has the same birth date as the Michael Tracey charged in Newfoundland.
The signature on court documents in both provinces appears to have been written by the same person.
He is also described as an “IT professional” in Calgary court documents, which matches his job in Newfoundland.