OPP officer charged with fraud after probe into Wayne Gretzky memorabilia theft
Police say the memorabilia was stolen from the home of the NHL legend's father, Walter Gretzky
An Ontario Provincial Police officer is facing fraud charges after an investigation into the theft of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia from the home of the hockey legend's father.
Police say a three-month probe into the theft also uncovered an alleged fraud involving a Gretzky hockey stick.
A spokesperson for the OPP says Insp. June Dobson is facing fraud charges in the case.
Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne says Dobson was already on an unrelated paid leave of absence when the charges were announced Tuesday.
Police in Brantford, Ont., said Tuesday they had arrested a 58-year-old Oakville, Ont., man and a 58-year-old Brockville, Ont., woman, but did not name them. The arrests came after an investigation following the theft of approximately $500,000 US worth of memorabilia from the home of Walter Gretzky.
Brantford police say that during the investigation they uncovered evidence of someone — unrelated to the theft — had committed fraud involving a Gretzky hockey stick.
"There was a misrepresentation of a piece of memorabilia, and as a result of that, was sold fraudulently," said Staff Sgt. Keith Tollar on Wednesday.
Dobson, who was the detachment commander of the Grenville, Ont., OPP detachment, is facing charges of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust.
The other two people facing charges were "family friends" and the items were taken over the course of several months, said Tollar, who was the lead investigator on the case.
"There was no break-and-enter, there was no violence toward Walter or the family," he said.
Police say they believe several of the missing items had likely been sold to collectors across Canada.
Tollar said collectors need to do their due diligence when purchasing rare items.
"The message that we're trying to send to people who do purchase these high-end, one-off items … it's buyer beware."
Investigators searched three locations, one in Alberta and two in Ontario, and recovered souvenirs including game-used hockey sticks, jerseys and a Player-of-the-Year award that belonged to Wayne Gretzky.
The items were "one-of-one memorabilia that was given from Wayne to Walter," said Tollar.
The family co-operated with the investigation, he said, and was "extremely happy" to see the memorabilia returned.
"From being born and raised in Brantford and knowing the amount of charity work that Walter Gretzky has done, not just locally, but nationally, I think every member of the team was happy to get the items back to Walter," said Tollar.
"He's known as Canada's most-beloved hockey dad, so we were just happy to get those mementos back to where they belong."
Police say the investigation is ongoing.
With files from CBC's Dan Taekema