A Saskatchewan judge has charged a man with fraud under $5000 as well as property obtained by crime. Andrij Olesiuk has been found guilty after he defrauded thousands of dollars from donors who thought the money was going to the victims’ families of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash of April 6, 2018.
Olesiuk set up a GoFundMe page entitled #PrayForHumboldt that was said to be crowdfunding for the victim’s families and raised approximately $3800. A separate GoFundMe page for the same purpose raised $15.1 million dollars according to Global News.
Olesiuk took just over $3700 from the GoFundMe account and transferred it into his personal account.
Andrij, also known as Jay Max Olesiuk represented himself during the trial and stated that he had no “ill intention” with the funds raised through his crowdfunding page.
He said he didn’t believe Olesiuk’s story about the woman at his door, saying no sensible person would’ve turned over thousands of dollars. He kept the Broncos money for his own use. Olesiuk stated in his testimony that a woman came to his Martensville, Sask. doorstep on April 24 to solicit donations for a Broncos charitable event. Olesiuk claims to have given the woman $4100 that day in cash, rather than donate his fund directly to the Broncos. The accused was unable to recall the woman’s name or organization she was purportedly with.
“It is too incredible a story to believe,” said Judge Brent Klaus.
Darren Howarth, crown prosecutor argued the “mysterious woman” didn’t exist and believed Olesiuk’s defence to be “ridiculous.”
Howarth presented a transaction log that showed Olesiuk approved a $3,300 payment from GoFundMe to his account one day before the woman allegedly appeared. Olesiuk received the payment on April 25, 2018.
“What are the odds…. that this lady just happened to show up in between the dates he initiated the withdrawal and received the money?” Howarth asked.
Olesiuk defended his story claiming to have been given a receipt from the woman days later in his mailbox. However, he was unable to provide the receipt or even a copy of one as evidence during the trial. Olesiuk said he lost the receipt in a February 2019 house fire.
The defence instead presented a thank you note as an exhibit, which Olesiuk testified he received from the anonymous woman immediately after his donation. He admitted that he hadn’t previously mentioned the note to the police or crown before during cross-examination.
Olesiuk assured the court that the note was in his garage, but the RCMP carried out a search of Olesiuk’s property on November 20, 2018 and said officers never found no such note.
Olesiuk is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3.