Members of an organization geared to protect vulnerable women say a case of fraud has devastated their northern B.C. community.
The former executive director of the Chetwynd Women's Resource Society defrauded the agency of more than $30,000.
Lonnie Dee Llewellyn pleaded guilty Thursday in Vancouver Provincial Court to one count of fraud over $5,000. She is scheduled to be sentenced in April.
"This was a huge, huge part of the community — and then just gone in the blink of an eye," says Lindsey Sprague, who discovered the fraud after taking over from Llewellynn. "It was terrible."
The Chetwynd Women's Centre shut its doors in January 2012 as a result of the fraud, which Sprague says also cost the organization its provincial funding.
According to information sworn to obtain a production order for Llewellyn's bank account, the society hired Llewellyn in May 2010 to complete an audit of the books for the Ministry of Child and Family Development, which funded the society. She left a year later without having completed the audit.
The money was supposed to fund low-income housing and programs aimed at stopping domestic violence and helping children who witness violence.
In the court documents, investigators believe Llewellyn took money by changing her salary cheques to read $1,600 instead of $600. Sprague says she also took funds and products donated by community members to help abused and vulnerable women.
Society board member Andrea Kurjata says those women now have to travel to communities at least an hour away to get help.
"The need is still there just people have to go out of town to get services. And a lot of women don't have the resources to do that," Kurjata says. "It's not feasible for a lot of women in situations where they're trying to leave an abusive husband and they have no family in town."
The production order also says Llewellyn was investigated in 2009 for taking approximately $44,000 from the Peace Christian School while she worked there. But trustees allegedly entered into a civil agreement with her to get the money back and so no criminal charges were forwarded.
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