Former OPP association brass found not guilty of fraud

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Five men, including the former president, vice president and chief administration officer of the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA), have been found not guilty of fraud after being accused of using their “high ranking positions” to direct people to a travel agency they own.

Last month, Crown Prosecutor David Friesen told the jury that in 2014, the five men bought a travel agency called First Response Travel Group and allegedly directed all member travel to that business.

Friesen said that this was done without the knowledge of the OPPA board.

"All five worked together to hide the truth of what they were doing,” he said.

The Crown also alleged that former police officer turned defence lawyer Andrew McKay set up a consulting company that was paid $5,000 a month by the police association. The money, Friesen said, helped the OPPA executives pay for their shares in the travel agency.

Karl Walsh, James Christie and Martin Bain, Andrew McKay and Francis Chantiam were all charged with fraud over $5,000.

Late Wednesday evening, a jury found them not guilty of the allegations.

Speaking outside the courthouse, the lawyers representing all five men said they were relieved that a jury listened to their clients’ testimony and came to a not guilty verdict.

“They’ve always been good men and have always worked at the best interest of the (OPPA),” said Lou Strezos, the lawyer representing Bain. “They’ve spent five years, obviously, under the microscope. They never wavered, they all testified, the jury accepted their efforts and that’s important.”

Christie’s lawyer said the trial has been difficult for her client, who was president of the OPPA at the time the allegations were made.

“The hit was very hard and he suffered with this burden of being accused of having done acts against an organization he cared about to his core,” Julianna Greenspan said.

David Humphrey said that the last five years have been “long” for his client, adding that McKay is “very gratified” and “relieved” by the verdict.

McKay, Humphrey said, was suspended by the law society during the proceedings.