With a small seating allowance of about 58 people, crowds at Yellowknife Royal Canadian Legion Branch 164 are usually quite intimate, which made the recent revelation that two staff members had been stealing from the establishment to the tune of $60,000 all the more shocking.
Full-time staffer of three years Mary Charles, 42, and part-timer Hellen Leaman, 49, were arrested and charged last week with theft over $5,000 following an investigation that uncovered the two women had been taking unauthorized money and booze over a period of six months.
“My book-keeper said she thought there might have been a little trouble there,” said the Legion’s branch president Lloyd Lush in an interview with The Journal. “She did an audit and after she did that she came and talked to me and told me there was a problem that went back five or six months, and from there we found out things weren’t balanced.”
Before going to the police, the two worked to gather evidence using video surveillance.
“Once we found out and we did the audit and we had all the facts in place and checked our camera tapes, we saw the grounds that there was money missing,” Lush said. “I immediately informed the RCMP and brought the tapes to them and gave a statement. Once they did their investigation, they said yes, we have enough of a statement to make an arrest.”
Charles and Leaman were taken in by the police Jan. 30. Both were eventually released from custody and are scheduled to appear in court on Mar. 3 in Yellowknife.
“It aways impacts when you lose money from a place but we are financially stable; it’s not going to shut down or anything like that,” Lush said. “We’re doing O.K.; we’ll just keep on doing what we do and take on some more security measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, the Legion’s more charitable commitments remain unaffected by the theft.
“We’re up to date on our donations,” Lush said. “We just donated $5,000 to the Weledeh School lunch program, we donated $5,000 to Mildred Hall lunch program and we donated $5,000 to the Betty House.”
With tougher security in place, Lush hopes future upsets at the Yellowknife Legion branch are only caused by Monday’s dart players, Wednesday’s billiard leagues and Friday’s meat raffles.