Justice
Tłı̨chǫ

Wekweètì, Whatì fraudster was herself scammed online


A woman ordered to pay back $13,180 she defrauded from employers in Wekweètì and Whatı̀ is in a huge financial hole, owing $175,000 to a credit card and some family members.

Grace Maria Angel, 49, was sentenced last week to a 12-month conditional sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of breach of trust by a public officer.

In a period spanning 2009 to 2018, she was senior administrator for Wekweètì’s community government and later worked for the NWT Housing Corporation.

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It emerged during sentencing at the Yellowknife Courthouse that the mother of two adult children was a victim of fraud herself, falling for an online romance scam with a man who persuaded her to send him money transfers.

In March 2017, as Angel was working as the housing manager in Whatı̀, she started chatting with a man on dating app Zoosk, court documents stated.

The man, using the name Ryan Logan, claimed to be a businessman from the United States who was expanding his work to the United Kingdom.

”After their first phone call, Grace realized that his accent didn’t sound American and was more Turkish,” stated the document. “She enquired about this and was given a reason that seemed fine to her.”

She ended up sending him more than $108,000 through bank-to-bank and wire transfers, along with money orders in response to his various pleas, including a claim he had been stabbed and robbed of cash “while at a shipping port.”

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After eventually realizing she had been scammed, in January 2018 Angel reported the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

She had meanwhile defrauded the Tłı̨chǫ Government of $5,084 when she was in Wekweètì, stolen $6,800 in cash rent payments from the housing corporation, and fraudulently booked $1,311 in flights on the housing corporation’s Air Tindi account.

Wekweètì government ‘lost trust’

The court ordered Angel to repay $300 monthly starting in July.

In addition to those outlays, she has a plan to “pay everyone back,” stated court documents, and “believes she can be debt-free in five years.” Angel currently lives in a Yellowknife multiplex, paying $850 a month for rent and working as a cook at a diamond mine.

The first six months of her sentence involve strict house arrest with limited exceptions. The remaining six months have conditions including a 10pm curfew and reporting to a probation officer.

She is not allowed to travel to Wekweètì or Whatı̀.

Court documents indicate the Wekweètì community government “has lost trust in employees who are new hires” and is concerned that Angel’s actions weren’t detected earlier.

In 2016, Wekweètì council members ordered a partial audit by an outside accountant to assess how Angel – earning $105,000 annually – was managing the band’s money. The accountant found poorly maintained records and, among those records, irregular purchases of furniture.

Angel had the items delivered to a Yellowknife address and to her new house in Whatì, where she had moved as housing manager for the NWT Housing Corporation. After being fired, Angel sold most of the items on Facebook.

In Whatì, Angel would collect cash payments from tenants and, detecting a weakness in the GNWT’s accounting system, would mark them as paid with the actual deposits going undetected. Angel also booked several personal flights under the housing corporation’s account.

In December 2017, staff at the housing corporation heard about RCMP inquiries into Angel’s activities in Wekweètì. On January 10, 2018, she confessed all to her manager.

In apologizing for her actions, Angel stated: “I am sorry for damaging the trust you bestowed upon me. I know you are good people who don’t deserve to be treated that way. I am very, very sorry.”

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