Former United Way employee charged with fraud, agency seeking $292K

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A Tilbury woman faces a fraud charge following a months-long probe of an alleged misappropriation of funds from the United Way Chatham-Kent, Chatham-Kent police say.

The investigation began Sept. 29, police said in a release Wednesday.

“As a result of a thorough investigation, which included analysis of records dating from Oct. 8, 2021, to Oct. 20, 2022, an arrest was made” on Feb. 2, police said.

Veronica Whittal, 48, of Tilbury is charged with one count of fraud over $5,000, police said. She was released with conditions and a court date slated for this Monday.

The United Way announced in October it was filing a civil action against an unnamed former employee.

According to civil court documents filed in Ontario Superior Court, the charitable organization is trying to recover $292,614.

In a release at the time, the United Way said it went to police after “due diligence and (a) thorough investigation” guided by an audit firm.

The charity added its board and executive team were taking the matter seriously and wanted to ensure transparency with supporters about the allegations.

The agency noted it had strengthened security protocols.

“We deeply appreciate the trust and support of our donors during this time and want to assure them that we are working tirelessly to resolve this situation,” Maureen Geddes, the agency’s interim chief executive, said in the release.

The United Way thanked its former chief executive, Barb Palace, “for her support in identifying the concern and assisting with the internal investigation” that resulted in the case being brought to police attention.

Geddes stressed the matter was “completely unrelated” to Palace’s departure in September 2023.

“Barb resigned for her own personal reasons, and for respect for her privacy we’re not commenting on that,” Geddes said. “But it’s absolutely not related.”

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