Former OPP union bosses, lawyer look to reclaim reputation and careers after jury clears them of fraud
Almost five years after the RCMP laid shocking charges against three leaders of the Ontario Provincial Police union, along with a Toronto lawyer and a U.S. businessman, a Toronto jury found each of them not guilty of fraud charges over an unorthodox business deal.
The recent acquittals leave them looking to recover their reputation and return to a normal life. That’s a particular challenge when your career revolves around law and order.
James Christie, Karl Walsh and Martin Bain were sworn officers with the Ontario Provincial Police who were doing full-time work for the Ontario Provincial Police Association, their police union. They stepped down from the union and were suspended from the force when charged, and now face an internal OPP review.
For Andrew McKay, who was suspended from practicing law by the Law Society of Ontario after he was charged, will face a Law Society Tribunal hearing to return to practice.
The criminal probe was alarming when it was revealed in 2015.
Walsh was the chief administrative officer for the union then, a position he took after being union president from 2006 to 2011.
“He spent a good part of his career working for the members of the Ontario Provincial Police Association. He committed his whole life to this, to policing, to the community, to his fellow police officers,” said Paul Cooper, Walsh’s lawyer.
“And then the March 6 date came. It was an absolute shock to everybody. It’s been so hard on them for five years of their lives to try to live a normal life.”
That was the day in 2015 when RCMP officers executed 13 search warrants at various homes and offices, including at the police union’s head office in Barrie, and at McKay’s Toronto law office. The searches were part of an investigation sparked by tipsters within the OPPA who had suspicions over finances and business deals.
“Mr. McKay’s life was thrown into turmoil as a result of the unfounded allegations,” said David Humphrey, McKay’s lawyer.
McKay was once a police officer but after graduating law school he built a practice that specialized in policing issues. He often defended officers or worked for police unions.
The former union bosses had a long history of policing and union work.
Christie was a detective sergeant and Bain and Walsh were constables when they were seconded to the union. Bain became a director in 2006; Christie a director the next year. Christie became vice president in 2008. In 2012, when Walsh was CAO, Christie replaced him as president and Bain shifted to VP.
The RCMP’s information to obtain the search warrants outlined a litany of allegations, including money laundering and offshore purchases, but when it came down to an actual prosecution, Christie, Bain, Walsh, McKay, along with Noel Francis Chantiam, a U.S. businessman, were jointly charged with one count of fraud over $5,000.
It stemmed from their purchase of a travel agency.
The jury heard the Crown’s allegations that the OPPA signed a consulting contract with McKay and that a portion of the union’s payments to him — the first $30,000 — were secretly used to subsidize the purchase price of the travel agency by the other men. The agency’s true ownership was hidden from the union’s board, prosecutors claimed.
The accused all testified at trial.
They said their efforts to launch a travel agency catering to first responders were not for their own benefit but to help the union and its members. Their plan, the jury was told, was to get the agency up and running and then turn it over to the union to benefit the members.
They were unable to get to that stage because of the RCMP probe, they said.
After weeks of evidence, the jury delivered a verdict of not guilty.
There was a rush of relief.
“After five long years bearing the accusation of defrauding the OPPA, their beloved organization, the jury lifted that cloud when it returned a true and just verdict of acquittal,” said lawyer Julianna Greenspan, on behalf of Christie and Bain.
She said the two men are uncertain of their plans.
“They are men of unimpeachable good character and are resilient. They are not exactly sure what will come next, but they will take it one step at a time in the days and weeks to come.”
Walsh wishes to return to policing.
“You try to put your life back together after you’ve been besmirched by these allegations and you’re found not guilty,” said Cooper. “There is a process to work through so he can gain back his reputation. This is the starting point.”
The OPP “accepts the decision of the court,” said Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne, a spokeswoman for the force.
“The OPP is reviewing the outcome of the court process and the Professional Standards Bureau investigation before determining the employment status of the three suspended members,” Dionne said.
At the union, new officials have replaced them. The relationship appears chilly.
“The individuals you identified do not act in any capacity for the OPP Association,” said Amie Fabiano, communications co-ordinator for the union.
McKay “was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated,” said Humphrey. “He hopes to return to his normal life and to the practice of law soon.”
Chantiam could not be reached for comment.
The OPPA is the union representing more than 6,200 non-commissioned provincial police officers and about 3,600 civilian members of the provincial police.https://nationalpost.com/news/former-op ... m-of-fraudhttps://www.carmanvalleyleader.com/news ... c1c946abac