Former credit union manager rejects plea deal, case sent back to trial
A former Belleville, Ont. credit union manager charged in a million-dollar fraud has short-circuited a plea bargain by refusing to accept responsibility for the theft, even though she had pleaded guilty.
An exasperated Mr. Justice Robert Scott of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said he had expected to hand down a sentence on Friday, Oct. 11, but when Cheryll Drumm, 50, was interviewed for a pre-sentence report she refused to admit responsibility for the fraud, insisting her mortgage deals were in a “gray zone” and she was following instructions of her leaders.
Scott said without an admission of guilt he could not accept the guilty plea, so he sent the case back to trial. A date for a new trial will be set on Nov. 22. That trial, to be heard by judge alone, is expected to take two weeks. Assistant Crown Attorney Jodi Whyte said she will be asking the trial co-ordinator to find the first two weeks available to get the trial started again.
Drumm was charged 2016, but the case has been delayed repeatedly. It finally went to trial this June, but after two days Drumm changed her not guilty pleas on counts of fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000 and money laundering to guilty on charges of money laundering and fraud over $5,000.
Scott said he would need a pre-sentence report on her actions and would sentence her on Oct. 11. But Friday he said the report gave no answer as to how or why the fraud occurred, “it is very troubling.”
Scott noted that he will not be the judge in the next trial. Defence counsel John Wonnacott also asked to be removed from the case since Drumm had turned down the deal he negotiated. Drumm is expected to seek legal aid counsel for her next trial. Scott warned her she needs to get a legal aid lawyer, or hire another lawyer soon because the charges are too serious for her to represent herself. “I tell you now, that’s not a comfortable place to be.”
Wonnacott said Drumm understood that the plea negotiations that had occurred would be wiped out if the judge struck her plea.
Scott asked Drumm how she felt about him striking down the plea deal and sending the case back to trial.
“I think that’s what we need to do,” she said, wearing white adidas running shoes and a salmon-coloured knitted top with her long black hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“Why waste court’s time for years on it?” Scott asked.
Scott criticized Drumm for repeatedly delaying the case by seeking 15 adjournments in Superior Court, changing lawyers, and earlier delays when the case was initially being heard in Provincial Court.
“On the last occasion there was an agreement that you would tell me what this was all about today, but you’re not forthcoming,” Scott said.
Drumm is not in custody and from her Facebook postings it appears she has spent the summer pursuing her passion for dragon boating with the Trenton Rowing and Paddling Club.
The probe began in October, 2015 after Bayshore Credit Union alerted police and it was determined that $1.067-million was stolen between January, 2010 and June, 2015. Charges were laid in May 2016 against Drumm, George Misuraca and Allan Lasher. Charges against Misuraca and Lasher were withdrawn after they paid civil restitution but civil cases against all three are continuing.
Bayshore has since become part of Quinte First Credit Union with three branches and six ATMs in the Quinte area. At the end of 2017 it had assets of $207 million.
Evidence at the June trial was that since Drumm was an employee of the credit union and couldn’t deal with her own account, she manipulated its software to put funds into her granddaughter’s account and then transfer the money to herself.
Former Bayshore Credit Union CEO Joe Bell testified about how cheques were cashed and money was moved between various financial institutions and explained how the accounting discrepancies were noticed.
Bell, who now works for Quinte First, said the credit union was tipped off that something was wrong when Central 1 Credit Union, which handled Bayshore’s accounts, said the credit union had gone over the limit on an operating line of credit.
He said an investigation showed multiple instances of certified cheques being recorded as “duplicated.” They were linked to Drumm, whose main job was to process paper or electronic transactions, such as cheques or electronic transfers, including pay cheques and pension payments.
During the hearing in June, Wonnacott said that while Drumm did admit to taking close to $90,000 for herself over the four-year span, she received no benefit or kickback for helping to advance Lasher more than $800,000 and Misuraca $500,000.
That spurred Justice Scott, who took over from Justice Wolf Tausendfreund when the plea deal was struck, to ask if Wonnacott “saw his client as a modern day Robin Hood”.
In issuing a request for a pre-sentence report, Scott said “there didn’t appear to be any bad habits linking Drumm to that kind of activity” and he wanted “to see the relationship with the co-accused explained in a little more detail.”
The pre-sentence report failed to explain her actions.