Former personal banking officer enters guilty plea in fraud case

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder

Two years after charges were filed, a plea has been entered in a fraud case involving eleven separate victims dating back to 2013.

On Monday, April 8, former personal banking officer Brenda Venne entered a guilty plea to Fraud over $5,000. Over the course of six years between Jan. 2, 2013, and April 30, 2019, Venne was responsible for stealing nearly $750,000 in funds, mainly from senior citizens, before retiring from her job with Conexus Credit Union in July 2020.

According to information presented at the trial at the Court of King’s Bench in Prince Albert, a complainant reported that $92,000 was missing from their account triggering the investigation.

The first report to the Wakaw RCMP was made in December 2020. Due to the “scope and complexities” of the investigation, the Saskatoon RCMP General Investigation Section (GIS) took over and uncovered a total of 157 fraudulent transfers.

“This 16-month-long fraud and theft investigation began due to the vigilance of one keen individual,” RCMP-GIS Sgt. Greg Smith said when Venne was arrested in April 2022. “It takes great strength for a victim to come forward to police and make a report and I commend them for this.

“Eleven victims, the majority being seniors, were ultimately identified during the course of this investigation. Sadly, some of the victims died prior to the initial report made to police.”   

At the time of the arrest two years ago, Venne was charged with Fraud over $5,000 and Theft over $5,000. According to the legal definition, fraud is the intentional deception of one person by another for personal, often financial, gain. Theft, on the other hand, is the act of taking someone else’s property without their consent but does not involve deception. So, while theft is taking physical or direct possession of another’s assets, fraud relies on deception or cunning manipulation to gain possession of assets.

Conexus Credit Union collaborated with auditors and investigators during the investigation and contacted all who had been affected by the fraud telling media at the time of Venne’s arrest, that those affected had been “made whole.” A separate civil court judgement in the amount of $750,000 has been awarded to Conexus Credit Union. 

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, any person who is found guilty of fraud over $5,000 is guilty of an indictable offense that is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 14 years. Sentencing of Venne has been adjourned to Nov. 5, 2024. While defence lawyer, Peter Abrametz Jr., wants a community-based sentence, the Crown has indicated it plans to ask for a custodial sentence. In determining sentencing, the court will likely consider aggravating circumstances such as: 

  • the magnitude, complexity, duration, or degree of planning that was involved,
  • the number of victims and if the fraud significantly affected their health and finances,
  • if the offender took advantage of the “high regard” they were held in by others in the community,
  • if the offender concealed or destroyed records related to the fraud.

In the years since Venne initiated her fraudulent activity, some of her victims have passed away without being able to give victim impact statements, but some victims and/or family members have provided insight into the impacts they feel.

Brenda stole so much more than money, one individual said. She stole their ability to trust, their sense of security, and their peace of mind.

“To victimize our most vulnerable seniors was a reprehensible act which deserves the most severe sentence possible,” said one family member who wished to remain anonymous. “Brenda Venne held a position of trust and respect in Wakaw. What an immense betrayal this has been to the community.”