An Ottawa-area high school teacher is facing several criminal charges after allegedly defrauding a local minor hockey association in the Township of Madawaska Valley, and it’s not the only sports organization that has raised concerns.
Wanda Malone, 46, was arrested Aug. 16 by Killaloe Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and charged with fraud over $5,000, money laundering, forgery and the use of a forged document, according to an OPP news release issued Monday.
Her LinkedIn profile describes her as a teacher, rugby referee and coach, and longtime employee of the Ottawa Catholic School Board. OPP said she’s living in Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan Township, a rural area west of Ottawa.
In May of 2021, Sacred Heart Catholic High School in the west Ottawa suburb of Stittsville called Malone a “gifted teacher whose energy and commitment are contagious.”
In a tweet the school called her “passionate about the power of sports” to change students’ lives “for the better” and that she “tirelessly devotes time and energy to support her students outside the classroom.” Her LinkedIn profile describes her as a teacher, referee and coach.
But despite her dedication to sports — and helping manage the finances of three organizations — some are crying foul.
This evening Ms. Wanda Malone will be recognized as one of this year’s OCSB Director of Education Commendation award winners. Congratulations Ms Malone! We’re blessed to have you as part of our community. #BeOCSB #OurSHHS pic.twitter.com/w5HrfcS8dW
The Barry’s Bay and Area Minor Hockey Association (BBAMHA) in the Township of Madawaska Valley, where Malone served as treasurer, didn’t provide a direct comment on the recent charges
But an Aug. 19 letter forwarded to CBC News by the hockey association told families about a legal matter pertaining to its finances that was discovered this spring, which had been brought to the attention of the OPP.
“The police investigation has resulted in the OPP criminally charging a member of our BBAMHA organization,” association president Stephanie Plebon wrote. “That person is no longer a member.”
Not the only organization alleging misappropriation
Dave Beyer, president of the volunteer-run Eastern Ontario Rugby Union where Malone managed finances for two years, told CBC his organization lost $12,000 after a long-time and highly trusted member of his executive misappropriated funds over two years.
An email written by Beyer and sent to the union in March, which was forwarded to CBC by a third party, confirmed the member of the executive to be Malone and included her resignation letter.
“Please know that my actions were in no way malicious,” Malone wrote in her resignation to the union, which was also sent in March. “For many years I have been in a precarious financial situation, living paycheque to paycheque.”
The breach of trust was hard to stomach, Beyer told CBC, especially because of where the allegedly stolen money comes from.
“It comes from the young athletes and their parents,” he said in an interview on Monday. “[In] both minor hockey and rugby, not every parent has got those means easily available.”
Beyer said he has filed a report with the Ottawa Police Service. He also warned a third unnamed organization about her actions, according to the email he wrote that was forwarded to CBC.
That email added that all three organizations are conducting “our own processes,” and that “there are substantial amounts missing from each organization and there are concerns about remaining operating capital for each.”
Malone ‘trying to balance and cover’
In her resignation letter, Malone added that she intends to pay back every cent and that she is sorry for her actions.
“What started as borrowing to cover my mortgage payment or pay a bill turned into me slowly becoming deeper and deeper in,” she wrote. “I was now trying to balance and cover. I always had intentions of paying the money back but kept discovering myself further behind.”
A Wanda Malone is listed on Ontario’s 2021 Sunshine List as a teacher employed by the Ottawa Catholic School Board, with a salary of $103,636.
The Eastern Ontario Rugby Union has a volunteer-based financial taskforce that has provided a report on what’s happened and “the necessary measures to take to properly safeguard the money that’s entrusted to us,” Beyer said.
In his March email to the union, Beyer wrote that they may be feeling “betrayal, anger, disbelief,” but that after time he believed “that we will reluctantly accept that this has happened, even if we don’t understand why.
“I would suggest that one of the first lessons we are learning is that many, if not all, of our organizations are vulnerable to acts such as these,” he wrote.
OPP said Malone was released from custody on conditions and will next appear in court on Sept. 14.
Multiple attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful.