June 14th, 2024

Pre-trial conference slated for university fraud case


By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on February 15, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A 57-year-old Lethbridge woman who has pleaded not guilty to stealing more than half a million dollars from the University of Lethbridge, is scheduled to have a pre-trial conference next week.
The pre-trial conference, to discuss issues relating to the case, is a precursor to an actual trial. In addition to discussions between defence, the Crown and judge, a trial date may be scheduled during the conference, and confirmed at a subsequent arraignment hearing in Court of Queen’s Bench on March 14.
During a hearing last month, Calgary lawyer Rabie Ahmed suggested it may be difficult to find a local judge to conduct the trial 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 said at the Jan. 10 hearing. “There are some very serious logistical issues that would need to be discussed.”
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 last 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.”

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