Edmonton

Children's charity sues former treasurer for taking money

The former treasurer of the Children’s Heart Society is being sued for allegedly stealing over $200,000 from the charity.

Children's Heart Society alleges Asa Wedman of Edmonton took more than $200,000

Participants at the Children's Heart Society's Hope for Little Hearts Race in 2016. (Facebook)

The former treasurer of the Children's Heart Society is being sued for allegedly taking more than $200,000 from the charity.

The allegations against Asa Wedman are found in a statement of claim filed in Edmonton on Jan. 5. They have not been proven in court.

The statement of claim alleges the Edmonton man fraudulently withdrew funds from three of the Children's Heart Society bank accounts.

Those accounts were the bingo, casino and general bank accounts.

The lawsuit alleges Wedman forged cheques made payable either to himself or to third parties which were made for his benefit, and that he made unauthorized withdrawals from the accounts.

It also says Wedman made active efforts to cover his tracks — by altering account statements, creating false invoices so it looked like the payments were to reimburse him for legitimate expenses, and by removing transactions from the accounting systems.

'Devastated when this came to light'

Andrea Luft is the president of the Children's Heart Society.

"We were all devastated when this came to light," she said.

Luft said the board of directors became aware that things were not right when she was contacted by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

"He [Wedman] wasn't responding despite representations being made to the board that he was replying," she said.

Wedman had been treasurer of the charity since at least the fall of 2011.

One of his children is featured on the Children's Heart Society website.

The story details how Wedman and his wife found out their baby had a heart condition and the numerous surgeries and medical interventions that were required.

Luft said that makes the allegations against Wedman even more unexpected.

"There was some improper conduct, or so we believe, that led to getting around the checks and balances in place," she said.

"Things that are truly not what you would expect someone to be able to do to a charitable organization that their child was a part of. But obviously no organization is immune to fraud."

Changes put in place

Luft said she hopes the lawsuit won't reflect badly on the charity, saying there are new checks and balances in place to make sure something similar can't happen again.

"At the end of the day, when somebody tries to behave improperly against a charitable organization, I think that reflects badly on them," she said.

"I know that the work we do in the community is good … and I hope that someone's misconduct doesn't affect the good work we do to raise awareness of pediatric heart conditions."

But she said Children's Heart Society has had to cancel its annual Jasper family retreat, in part because of the organization's "uncertain financial position."

The lawsuit also includes the Royal Bank of Canada and HSBC Bank Canada for negligence in permitting unauthorized withdrawals from the organization's account.

No statement of defence has been filed yet.

Wedman told CBC on Monday he was not aware of the lawsuit and did not want to comment until he spoke with a lawyer.

About the Author

Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.