2 charged in connection with fishing derby fundraiser fraud in Manitoba

An ice fishing derby that was supposed to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba has led to two people being charged with theft and fraud after more than $13,000 in proceeds weren’t given to the charity.

The Winnipeg Police Service’s financial crime unit started investigating the Full Tilt Winter Walleye Tournament in December 2021 and eventually hooked a 39-year-old woman and 40-year-old man, both from St. Anne, who were charged between Oct. 20 and Nov. 2 this year.

In addition to the theft and fraud offences, the pair are charged with laundering the proceeds of crime and criminal breach of trust.

A police spokesperson said the investigation took nearly a year because it was complex and required judicial authorizations for multiple bank accounts.

“It is not uncommon for financial investigations be lengthy,” said Const. Dani McKinnon.

$22K in entry fees

Police said the main organizer reached out to the Children’s Hospital Foundation in January 2021, proposing the idea of a COVID-friendly virtual fishing tournament fundraiser, in which entrants used an app to take photos of their catch.

The foundation believed the net proceeds would be donated to the organization, police said in a news release on Wednesday.

The foundation agreed to the plan and allowed the derby organizer to use its logo for advertising. The organizer then secured several corporate sponsors that provided prizes for the event, believing it was for a charitable cause, police said.

A total of 492 participants registered to take part in the derby, with $22,147 in entry fees collected.

After the event, $9,118 of the raised funds was dispersed as prize money to participants. The Children’s Hospital Foundation never received the remaining $13,029, police said.

Investigators determined the organizer and a co-accused kept the remaining funds for their own financial gain.

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