He was supposed to be running a charity to help former criminals; instead, he’s been accused of criminal activity himself.
Darren Pennock was the executive director of the John Howard Society of Peel-Halton-Dufferin from 2012 until he was fired in 2019 for cause.
According to a recent judgment, the non-profit organization discovered he’d been living the high life by using corporate credit cards and filing fake invoices to defraud them of more than $200,000.
In a lawsuit filed by the agency to recover their money, the judge had scathing words for the former director.
“I find that Pennock’s conduct was high-handed, malicious, and highly reprehensible, particularly given the clear evidence that he breached his fiduciary duty as set out in his contract of employment, he committed multiple acts of fraud and deception thereby depriving the plaintiff organization of a very substantial sum of money, which is funded by tax dollars collected by the government and as well through charitable donations,” wrote Superior Court Justice Peter Daley
It was an elaborate ruse, according to the ruling.
A forensic audit in February 2020, the judgment said, found Pennock falsified invoices and documents, forged signatures on expense claims and even created fake board of directors’ meeting minutes.
According to the forensic audit, the extensive fraud included charging personal travel, meals and entertainment expenses to the tune of $159,375 as well as fraudulently purchasing gift cards worth about $45,395 as well as electronics and other items totaling $63,895.87.
According to the audit, Pennock also made charges on his corporate credit card for alleged legal fees the society had incurred with three separate law firms, “all of which were found to be fraudulent,” the judgment said.
On Oct. 19, 2021, Pennock was charged with fraud over $5000; breach of trust; and six counts of uttering forged documents. The ruling says it’s unclear what has happened with his charges.
After the John Howard Society sued Pennock and his wife Nancie Parker to recover the money, the couple entered a settlement agreement to pay $352,045 with at least $150,000 to be paid on Nov. 30, 2022.
But the Mississauga couple only paid $100,000 towards the settlement, the judge said. Not only that — they were supposed to provide security to the John Howard Society by taking out a second mortgage on their home. Instead, they provided a third mortgage “in further breach of the settlement agreement.”
So the society took the pair back to court for default judgment and to seek further punitive damages. And it didn’t go well for them.
With interest, Daley ordered them to now repay $239,388.50 of the “stolen funds.”
He found Pennock’s wife was also on the hook for the amount.
“Nancie Parker knew that Pennock’s salary did not support the lifestyle and expenses he was incurring on their behalf,” Daley said. “That knowledge raised the duty to inquire, which she either did, and thereby had actual knowledge of the fraud, or did not, thereby remaining fully blind to the fraud.”
She also benefitted from the misappropriated funds through legal fees paid on her behalf, European and Caribbean trips, as well gifts and household items she received, the judge wrote.
The couple was also ordered to pay almost $48,000 in the other side’s legal costs and they were told that declaring bankruptcy wouldn’t erase what they must repay.
In addition, Pennock alone must pay a further $35,000 in punitive damages, Daley ruled.
“I have determined that the award of punitive damages must reflect the finding that Pennock’s conduct including fraud and breach of fiduciary duty directly harmed a not-for-profit organization, whose financial resources come from tax dollars and charitable donations,” the judge said.
“This is not simply a case of fraud committed against a for-profit corporation,” Daley said. “The harm extended to the public and not just to shareholder investors.”
The couple’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.
As for the John Howard Society of Peel-Halton-Dufferin, they’re “relieved” by the court’s decision.
“We now look forward to putting this matter behind us,” the offender-focused organization said in a statement to the Sun, “and continue to deliver valuable programs to the communities we serve.’
Programs that perhaps their former director might now need.
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