Man charged with keeping $694K targeted for feeding children at impoverished First Nation reserve
by Adrian Humphreys, National Post, September 20, 2016
A Thunder Bay, Ont., businessman has been charged with fraudulently misdirecting government money meant to buy breakfasts for children at an impoverished northern Ontario First Nation reserve for his personal use.
Giuseppe (Joe) Crupi, 50, co-manager of Kashechewan First Nation on the coast of James Bay and part of the Thunder Bay-based Crupi Consulting Group, was charged Tuesday.
Crupi was responsible for managing funds obtained by the band from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
He fraudulently obtained more than $1.2 million of federal money from INAC’s National Child Benefit Reinvestment Program from 2007 to 2012 through annual applications for funding, the RCMP alleged.
The money was meant to provide breakfasts for about 400 elementary school children at St. Andrew’s School, a school for children from junior kindergarten to Grade 7 and a focal point for the community of 1,900 people.
The RCMP allege Crupi misappropriated about $694,000 of this money for his personal use in 2007, 2008 and 2012.
“(Crupi) made annual applications and reported on 400 children benefiting from a breakfast program to St. Andrew’s School,” said Sgt. Penny Hermann.
“The RCMP investigation concluded that the service was not provided to the 400 children as reported and the co-manager, Crupi Consulting, personally profited from the contribution fund.”
The RCMP’s serious and organized crime section in Thunder Bay charged Crupi Tuesday with three counts of fraud, three counts of uttering forged documents, laundering the proceeds of crime, and possession of property obtained by crime.
Questions over the breakfast funds were raised in 2012 during an annual audit of the band’s finances by the federal government.
Several band council members questioned Crupi Consulting Group invoices that were paid out by the first nation which did not contain supporting documentation, according to the RCMP.
In December 2012, Aboriginal Affairs North Development Canada, as it was called then, referred the audit irregularities and purported misappropriation of funds to the RCMP for investigation.
A message left for Crupi and Crupi Consulting Group were not returned by deadline. Kashechewan First Nation officials could not immediately be reached. Requests for comment from both the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett and the government department made late Tuesday went unanswered by deadline.
Crupi was scheduled to appear in court in Thunder Bay on Wednesday.
The RCMP investigation concluded that the service was not provided to the 400 children as reported
Crupi Consulting Group’s website describes itself as “one of Northern Ontario’s leading strategic management consulting and training groups specializing in business development, management services, economic analysis and development, community planning and marketing services.”
It lists several First Nation groups, including Kashechewan, as clients. It also lists the Ministry of Natural Resources as a client.
Crupi and the Crupi Consulting Group have been generous within the Thunder Bay community, including a $25,000 donation to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation and support for Lakehead University.
Kashechewan can only be reached by boat or plane. Flooding, access to clean drinking water, improper housing, infrastructure, unemployment and suicide have been chronic problems on the reserve. Flooding forces people to evacuate each year.
In March, children were evacuated from the community because of skin rashes and sores.