Michael Elphicke, who is facing fraud charges, leaves the Penticton Law Courts Monday afternoon for lunch hour. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Hockey parent takes the stand in fraud trial

Vernon hockey dad and coach testifies in failed hockey trip trial

What was supposed to be an exciting, positive opportunity for his child and himself, turned out to be something completely different for a Vernon hockey coach.

Blake Chase was one of many hockey parents who contributed money to an alleged fraud scheme on the premise that their son’s would be going on a trip of a lifetime to play hockey and tour in Europe in August of 2012.

A schedule of payments document given to parents in 2011 was brought up at the trial of Michael Elphicke and Loren Reagan during ongoing proceedings at the Penticton courthouse on Thursday. Both of the men are facing fraud charges over the failed hockey trip to Europe that they organized through Okanagan Elite Hockey. Parents had raised upwards of $125,000 through their own contributions and fundraising but the bank account that was supposed to be holding the funds had just $13,000 in it.

Related: Elphicke painting Penticton hockey fraud as one-man scam

Blake Chase was to coach the team and in exchange he would not have to pay the estimated $5,500 for the trip. He had already paid $2,000 towards the trip for his hockey-playing son when parents started questioning the financials of Okanagan Elite Hockey and it appeared the trip was not going to happen.

Reagan, who did not show up for the trial and now is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, is accused of using the parents contributions and fundraising money to buy personal items. Elphicke is accused of taking a personal salary for the efforts of raising the trip. Money also reportedly went to a failed hockey dorm project in Penticton.

The Chase family had participated in those fundraising efforts including raffles and meat draws, that he said were expected to bring the per-person costs down to $2,000 each. Some of those fundraising efforts required the parents to schedule time to sell raffle tickets at Vernon’s Village Green Shopping Centre and Orchard Park in Kelowna

The schedule of payments presented in court stated at the very bottom in the last sentence of the last paragraph that there would be administration fee for all funds raised. Chase testified that at no time was there discussion at the initial meeting held with parents that the money contributed by parents or through fundraising would be used for anything else but for the cost of the trip.

“It says in there it is only going to be used for the trip, the fundraising it was to offset the costs for the trip,” said Chase.

Defence counsel James Pennington questioned the hockey-dad if he had questioned the administration fee, which Chase replied “no.” In Crown’s rebuttal questioning, Chase was asked if he was told that the money for the hockey tour was going to be used for other businesses. He said the down payments they made were supposed to be a down payment for the tour company that they were using to help organize the trip.

“That’s what we were told it was for,” said Chase. We needed to put that money in to put a deposit in.”

While Chase said most of his dealings regarding the trip were through Reagan, he did recall Elphicke saying that if there was any money leftover from fundraising and paying for the trip that it could be donated to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Chase said all the paper work seemed “standard” for uniform costs, medical costs and the scheduled payments for the trip itself.

“Everything seemed standard. We were fundraising for the trip but the money went somewhere else.”

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

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