The Whitecap Dakota First Nations have posted a $2000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of their former accountant Hugo Gallegos. Chief Darcy Bear and members of the tribal council discovered that a large amount of money from their communal account was missing, and the trail led to their accountant. Gallegos had been employed by the band for the past six years and somehow managed to steal $2.5 million and leave town. Chief Darcy Bear expressed the feelings of the band council: “Our community is the victim. I’m very frustrated.”
The Whitecap Dakota are one of the most entrepreneurial Bands in Saskatchewan. They own a casino and a golf resort, and a hotel is under construction. They have reported earnings in excess of a $100 million, which reflects solid management and a visionary business sense. Hugo Gallegos, came with excellent references and was respected by his peers. Exactly when he started his scam hasn’t been established, but at some point, he began issuing cheques to himself or aliases he had created, then he would cancel the cheque entry in the ledger but still cash the cheque. Since he was the senior accountant in charge of deposits and responsible for all ledger entries, he was able to avoid scrutiny. Gallegos managed to embezzle over two million dollars before people started realizing there were certain discrepancies in the accounting department.
Hugo Gallegos, in the vain hope of avoiding capture, left for a vacation—perhaps to El Salvador where he was born—thus avoiding any confrontation with the band’s business directors. When he was reached by e-mail, his reply seemed a little left from the truth. “I was close to a heart attack, will take care of this matter first,” Gallegos wrote, not mentioning what hospital or his location. “Doctor doesn’t want me to deal with anything which triggers any stress or worries.”
In early September, there was enough proof to lay charges of fraud and embezzlement against Gallegos. He had returned to pick up personal effects, but had not shown up at work. Dennis Kammerer went to Gallegos’ house and found him all packed and ready to leave town. When Kammerer informed him the police knew he had stolen the money, Gallegos had no intention of dealing with the police and drove away in his Cadillac with Kammerer in close pursuit. Kammerer wasn’t able to catch Gallegos. It is believed now that he might have left Canada.
The RCMP have charged Hugo Gallegos, but the chances of him still being in Canada are slim, and if he is in El Salvador, he would have to be extradited ,which won’t be easy considering the politics in Central America. Chief Bear has hired a new accounting firm to check out the books to make sure there aren’t any other financial irregularities. Was Gallegos the only guilty one? It is hard to believe it took so long to discover that the money was missing. Could there be others who have worked with him? It’s a question that Dennis Kammerer and Chief Darcy Bear will want answered to make sure this never happens again.