New Brunswick

Late former principal secretary to lieutenant-governor embezzled $700,000, RCMP say

The former principal secretary to the New Brunswick lieutenant-governor is accused of embezzling $700,000 over seven years.

Tim Richardson had control of the office of lieutenant-governor's finances

Tim Richardson, the former principal secretary to the New Brunswick lieutenant-governor, is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars over seven years. Court filings say Richardson has died. (Tim Richardson/Twitter)

The former principal secretary to the New Brunswick lieutenant-governor is accused of embezzling about $700,000 over seven years.

And Tim Richardson will not stand trial for the alleged financial crimes because he has died, according to court documents.

An affidavit from RCMP Cost. Patrick Lemerise was submitted in support of a request to prevent Richardson from selling his house because it's tied to the crimes. It outlines the RCMP's case against him.

It says between Oct. 1, 2012, and June 30, 2019, Richardson committed theft, fraud and breach of trust.

Richardson had been the principal secretary for 20 years and was paid by the government of New Brunswick, the affidavit says.

The bank account from which he was making steady cash withdrawals contained money from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage, the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, revenue from Government House and donations from the public, Lemerise said.

RCMP investigating the lieutenant-governor's office have not laid any charges. (Government of New Brunswick)

The affidavit says $1 million was withdrawn in cash over seven years. The investigation found Richardson deposited $700,000 into his own bank account — in cash — over the same period. Some of the withdrawals and deposits happened on the same day, some of it days ahead of a vacation, and some coincided with mortgage payments.

The RCMP investigation into "financial irregularities" began in Aug. 2, 2019, the same day that the former lieutenant-governor, Jocelyne Roy Vienneau, died.

The affidavit says that in an interview with Roy Vienneau, she said "there was no discussion when she began her role about access to the bank account."

"When she asked more questions regarding the finances she was told not to worry about it."

'Sudden death'

The Fredericton Police Force confirmed they're investigating a sudden death on McKeen Street in Fredericton last Thursday but have not identified Richardson as the man who died. He lived on McKeen Street, according to court documents.

In the Richardson court file, there's an application for a sealing order on this information. The information was released but some names were redacted. 

In an affidavit submitted in support of the sealing order, Crown prosecutor Christopher Ryan said Richardson has died.

RCMP spokesperson Jullie Rogers-Marsh said Friday the investigation is continuing, and no charges have been laid.

Judy Wagner, private secretary to Lt.-Gov. Brenda Murphy, said the office will not be commenting because of the investigation.

'Control over all financial matters'

Lemerise, a financial crime investigator, says the provincial office of the comptroller first spoke with Richardson after hearing from the Canada Revenue Agency that the lieutenant-governor's office was behind on payroll remittance. 

The office of the comptroller monitored the account and found "no regular payments are being made," Lemerise said. That's when it began looking into the office of the lieutenant-governor's finances. 

"Timothy Richardson maintained control over all financial matters," Lemerise said. 

Richardson had sole access and signing authority for the office's bank account from October 2009 until July 2019, and he was the only person with a bank card and online access, Lemerise said.

In its investigation, the office of the comptroller found $336,766 in cash withdrawals from lieutenant-governor bank accounts between April 2017 and May 2019.

Richardson told the comptroller he did make that withdrawal, but it was for "work-related purposes," such as paying for expenses and work-related bills, the affidavit says. He then turned over a box of "unsorted" receipts dating back years, as well as his personal financial records.

After looking through those, the office of the comptroller still came up with $270,000 in unaccounted-for cash. The federal Department of Canadian Heritage agreed with the findings, Lemerise said. 

The Heritage Department said it can't comment because there is an investigation.

The RCMP investigation was initially triggered by the Heritage Department and the comptroller's office, which acts as an internal auditor.

"The irregular financial activities appeared to involve only Richardson," Lemerise said.

Once the investigation began, the RCMP discovered the "offence period" dated back to "at least" 2012.

The affidavit says Richardson had access to a corporate credit card, provincial payment card and grocery card for use in case of incidental expenses. It said in an interview Richardson said he was aware of government policies. It was also made clear to him that he could not take trips or buy new clothes with government money.

"Richardson preached how important it was to follow the rules because the institution couldn't afford another mark after Lise Thibault," Lemerise said, referring to a former Quebec lieutenant-governor convicted of fraud and breach of trust.

Pressure of personal debts

The affidavit says Richardson had several overdue credit card statements, bills and a notice from a collection agency "indicating financial pressure."

The investigation also found Richardson sent $360,000 to one person, whose identity was redacted. The affidavit says Richardson discussed bodybuilding and steroids. Investigators found vials "believed to possibly be" steroids in his Government House office. Police also believe they seized steroids from his house. 

A forensic accountant found between eight and 16 per cent of Richardson's mortgage was paid with cash deposits. The largest source of his income, accounting for 53 per cent, came through cash deposits. 

Fraudulent grant requests for non-existent employees

The affidavit says that over 20 years, Richardson had been getting funding from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure for extra employees. For the last seven years, he requested funding for a facility and events assistant, residence and events assistant and heritage and events assistant.

It started with a request for $75,000 in 2001, and ended with a request for $102,000 in 2020.

Lemerise said that over the last few years, Richardson had been submitting the same request letter. And as of 2010, only one person was a full-time employee paid from that funding. 

"Even if [redacted] salary and that if all the tour guides were included it would still result in the grant application being overstated by $383,311 between 2012 and 2019," Lemerise said. 

He said even after the forensic accounting of the lieutenant-governor office's bank account and Richardson's, "there remains over $300,000 in unaccounted for cash withdrawals," from the lieutenant-governor's office.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hadeel Ibrahim is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. She's been previously awarded for a series on refugee mental health and for her work at a student newspaper, where she served as Editor-in-Chief. She reports in English and Arabic. Email her at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

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