'Gargantuan' efforts of volunteers, staff uncover fraud at Waskesiu agency

A major task taking hundreds of hours uncovered the fact that $100,000 had been misdirected from Waskesiu Wilderness Region, the tourism marketing agency says.

George Wilson, former Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce manager, facing charges

George Wilson, the former manager for the Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce, has been charged with fraud and theft over $5,000. (Submitted by Carla Flaman)

A "gargantuan task" taking hundreds of hours and several months uncovered the fact that $100,000 had been misdirected from Waskesiu Wilderness Region, the tourism marketing agency says.

George Wilson, the former manager for the Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce, was charged on Jan. 4 with fraud and theft over $5,000, as well as possession of property obtained by crime. 

Waskesiu Wilderness Region released a statement, saying it first became aware of anomalies when it was finalizing its 2014-15 financial reports. This prompted an in-depth internal review that showed there had been unauthorized fund transfers.

RCMP, police investigate

Volunteers and staff spent months conducting an extensive forensic audit, which uncovered transactions made by Wilson, a former board member, said the Wilderness Region. The audit looked at his personal credit card expenses, unauthorized payments, and other fund transfers between the agency and other non-profit volunteer organizations with which Wilson was involved. 

The agency stated it turned over the information to Waskesiu's RCMP detachment and notified the other non-profits that had been involved. As some of these organizations were located in Prince Albert, Sask., the city's police department got involved, and a joint task force investigation took place.

RCMP laid the charges after investigating financial irregularities that happened from 2008 to 2015.

Increased security controls

The Wilderness Region said it has increased security controls, and all of the destination marketing fees it collected from its members were secure. 

"Since Mr. Wilson's departure, the WWR has been able to deliver value to members they should have been getting all along, finishing 2017 with a more than 10 per cent increase in membership and a modest operating surplus."

In a statement, the Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce said Wilson's employment wasn't renewed after the end of the 2015 season. It also said the chamber would be working closely with police and the Wilderness Region throughout the investigation.

Wilson is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Feb. 15.