Judge orders former Millbrook employee to repay $3.2M in fraud case

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A former employee of the Millbrook First Nation has been ordered to pay the band more than $3.2 million, plus more than $849,000 in interest.

Dawn Ellis-Abbott worked as a senior finance clerk for Millbrook, and in that capacity she had a great deal of autonomy in how she handled money.

Millbrook alleges she abused that autonomy in writing cheques and using the First Nation’s Visa on personal expenses and other costs not related to the community.

Ellis-Abbott was charged with fraud in April of this year. At the time, RCMP estimated she’d taken $4 million. The criminal fraud case is still before the courts with another hearing scheduled just before Christmas.

In addition to this criminal case, Millbrook launched a civil action against her, some of her associates and her business holdings. 

In a decision released Thursday, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Pierre Muise issued a summary judgment against Ellis-Abbott in the civil case. The judge said he was satisfied Ellis-Abbott had breached her fiduciary duty to Millbrook by taking money she wasn’t entitled to.

Thursday’s decision is a follow-up to a partial ruling Muise made in March, which included the $3.2 million figure but not the interest.

The judge dismissed the explanations Ellis-Abbott had offered for her spending.

“No legitimate Millbrook Fisheries expenses required her to write cheques to herself, deposit them in her personal account, withdraw cash and pay individuals in cash,” he wrote.

“She was not authorized to issue cheques to herself for her own personal use,” he added.

The judge found Ellis-Abbott deposited more than $811,000 to either her personal bank account or to the account of a hair salon she owned, DME High Maintenance Hair and Esthetics.

The court also found she took cash advances on a credit card belonging to the band, which were charged at a much higher interest rate than loans or other financial transactions.

This article was originally sourced from www.CBCNews.ca