By COLLIN GALLANT on November 27, 2019.
The local chapter of a global charity is suing its former vice-president for $2 million to recover what it claims are “embezzled” funds.
Officials with the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Society of Medicine Hat have filed a Court of Queen’s Bench civil action against Antonio Baldovinos and his wife, Christelle.
It asks that they pay “nearly $2 million in general, special and punitive damages relating to ‘misappropriated funds.'”
A statement of claim was filed in Medicine Hat on Nov. 4. A statement of defence has not been filed. The allegations have not been proven in court.
A press release on Tuesday morning from YWAM local chapter states that it is informing the community and its congregation of the matter.
It says that in late 2018 bank accounts were depleted and cheques were being returned as a result of alleged fraud that took place between June 2012 and October 2018 by the Baldovinoses.
Antonio Baldovinos was a vice-president with the group and member of the board of directors. The News was unable to reach the couple on Tuesday.
Internet links to A lecture series and books by Baldovinos of a website for the YWAM-related brand, Global Prayer House, are no longer working.
In early 2019 the society hired a litigation firm and brought in forensic accountants to audit the organization. They claim that $1.17 million was misappropriated via a “complex scheme of false invoices and expense reports,” according to the statement of claim.
The press release states, “Those disruptions embroiled the charity’s remaining leadership in an intensive process that required time, money and total confidentiality to investigate whether a fraud had in deed been committed.”
The suit also asks that the couple pay for the $70,000 cost of the audit (done by accounting firm MNP), $200,000 for general damage to operations and reputation, $200,000 in aggregate damages and $300,000 in punitive damages.
The statement of claim outlines that the couple had paid $22,000 but payments have stopped.
YWAM operates in six Alberta cities and has a mandate, according to the YWAM Canada website, to foster volunteer opportunities to help connect young people from a variety of Christian denominations around the world. YWAM International operates in 180 countries.
YWAM has been active in Medicine Hat since the early 2000s. It has put on conferences and supported youth activities and religious events. It operated the Central Skate Hub, on Industrial Avenue, before that facility collapsed under the weight of snow buildup in 2012. It hosted a number of events in conjunction with Eagles’ Nest Ranch over the years.
According to filings with the federal government for 2018, YWAM Medicine Hat received just more that $440,000 in donations for which tax receipts were issued. It had a total revenue of $728,000, including other gifts and sales of service.
No full-time salaries are described in the documents, which are a requirement of holding charitable tax statues. Previous years’ documents describe employment as part time and about $70,000 was paid to about 40 workers. Administration for the recent year includes $90,000 in rent and facility costs on three buildings in Medicine Hat.
Clarification: Officials with Eagle’s Nest Ranch state that there is no formal relationship between it and another local charity, Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
The later group is currently taking legal action against a former board director to recover funds they allege were misappropriated as well as punitive damages, totaling $2 million.
Yusuf Mohhammed of Eagles Nest Ranch states that his Christian charity has partnered with many other local groups over the years, but there is no connection between his group and YWAM.
Further, the two groups were co-tenants in the Central Skate Hub in Medicine Hat prior to 2012 along with a dozen other local groups. The article incorrectly stated YWAM was the landlord.
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