June 16th, 2024

Pre-trial conference ordered in U of L theft case

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 12, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

It may be some time before a 57-year-old Lethbridge woman, who pleaded not guilty in relation to the theft of more than half a million dollars from the University of Lethbridge, is ready to stand trial.
During a brief hearing Monday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’ Bench, Calgary lawyer Rabie Ahmed said a pre-trial conference will need to be scheduled first to arrange dates for a trial that will suit defence, the Crown and a judge. He pointed out there are also other issues to be addressed, which include finding a judge who can conduct the trial.
“There are some very serious logistical issues that would need to be discussed,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed expressed concern it may be difficult to find a local judge because of the high-profile involvement of the university, “which would of course put us in somewhat of a difficult position when it comes to finding a justice that can hear this matter who may not be disqualified, or may disqualify themselves outright.”
Ahmed, on behalf of his client, Donna Court, pleaded not guilty Dec. 7 of last year to charges of fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000 and possession of stolen property over $5,000. Court also elected to be tried by a Court of Queen’s Bench judge.
Court, a former accounting clerk at the University of Lethbridge, was charged in April, following a police investigation that began in 2018.
The U of L contacted police after detecting a potential fraud through its internal processes, and investigators with the economic crimes unit of the Lethbridge Police Service determined records had been falsified to conceal the theft of more than $500,000.
“In March 2018, University of Lethbridge employees discovered a fraud perpetrated by a fellow employee,” the university said in a statement following Court’s arrest.
The statement said an employee with more than 30 years of experience at the University, “abused her detailed knowledge of the financial systems of the U of L and falsified records to conceal the estimated theft of $580,000.”
The matter has been adjourned for a month to allow time to arrange a pre-trial conference. If the conference isn’t held within that time, it will likely be scheduled during the next hearing on Feb. 14.

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