Sipekne'katik First Nation missing funds trial enters final phase
Former financial manager Jeffrey Hayes allegedly siphoned off more than $300K from band coffers
The trial of a former financial manager of Sipekne'katik First Nation neared its end Monday in Halifax as Crown and defence lawyers presented final arguments in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
For the past four and a half weeks, jurors have heard the prosecution's case that between January 2009 and December 2010, Jeffrey Cecil Hayes allegedly siphoned off more than $300,000 from band coffers.
"Figures don't lie, but liars do figure," Crown attorney Rick Hartlen said Monday, paraphrasing a quote attributed to the American author Mark Twain.
"In January of 2009, Mr. Hayes walked head on into a circumstance where there was a victim, in the sense of the entire entity of the Shubenacadie First Nation, who was desperately then in need of a financial officer they could trust."
'Handed the keys to the kingdom'
Hayes is charged with theft, fraud, breach of trust and possession of stolen property.
The band, formerly Shubenacadie First Nation, officially changed its name to Sipekne'katik in July 2014.
When Hayes was hired in January 2009 "he was effectively handed the keys to the kingdom," Hartlen said.
Hartlen outlined how, after Hayes was hired, he reactivated a personal company called Amcrest Management. The prosecutor walked the jury through a series of payments of band funds to Amcrest, some as high as $25,000.
Hartlen disparaged Hayes's explanation that he used the account to pay consultants who were hired legitimately — but didn't want to be linked financially to the band.
"That makes no sense. It's unbelievable," he said.
Contractors never heard of Amcrest
Hartlen pointed out that the contractors in question were eventually paid $25,000 by a different band account, and they testified they'd never heard of Amcrest.
Outside of court, Hartlen said Hayes used the Amcrest account like a personal piggy bank.
"Things as simple as purchases at the liquor store, Speedy Auto Glass," he said. "The money he received from the band that we say is illicit funded Christmas presents that he bought for his family, paid for his daughter's tuition. That sort of thing."
"What you and I would take out of our wallet, he was taking out of the Amcrest account and paying for those expenditures," he said.
As part of their investigation in 2013, RCMP seized a luxury home in Halibut Bay off Herring Cove Road under proceeds of crime rules. They also seized two 2009 Jeeps owned by Hayes and valued at roughly $50,000.
Band 'understaffed and in financial disarray'
Hayes declined to comment Monday to CBC News.
In court, his lawyer Luke Craggs said Hayes was hired by a band that was understaffed and in financial disarray.
Craggs said Hayes was misled about proper financial practices by the band's former chief, Jerry Sack, who was Hayes' primary point of contact with the band government.
"Jeff Hayes simply did what he thought was legitimate based on guidance, or misguidance, whatever you want to call it, from Chief Sack," Craggs said.
'Entitled to every nickel'
Craggs said there's reasonable doubt around whether Hayes believed he was acting properly.
"Jeff Hayes believed, maybe rightly, maybe wrongly, that he was entitled to every nickel that he transferred from the band's account to his accounts," he said.
Justice John Murphy has said he'll read his charge to the jury on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that the jury would likely be sequestered on Wednesday afternoon until they deliver a verdict.