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Former head of CRDA charged with fraud, forgery

The former head of the Cumberland Regional Development Authority was called to appear in court this week, charged with fraud and nine counts of uttering forged documents.

Legal counsel for Rhonda Charmaine Kelly, 54, of Amherst, appeared in Amherst provincial court on her Monday, receiving an adjournment in the case until June 25.

The charges against Kelly – one count of defrauding the province of an amount in excess of $5,000, and nine charges of knowingly cause the Nova Scotia Dept. of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism to act upon forged documents between July 2007 and January 2010 – arise from Kelly's term as executive director of the economic and development association, working behind such projects as the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Cape Chignecto park in Advocate Harbour, the refurbishment of the Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash and a number of downtown Amherst projects.

The charges are another chapter in a long story that includes an investigation by the provincial ombudsman calling practices at the association into question, a forensic audit and computer files hidden in a bank lockbox.

Two whistleblowers from within the organization raised the alarm of questionable practices. In 2012, the provincial ombudsman slammed CRDA’s financial practices and the province’s lack of oversight, saying a forensic examination by the Provincial Auditor General was required and if the results were consistent with the ombudsman’s findings, the matter should be handed over to police.

In 2013, the same year CRDA stopped operating, PriceWaterhouseCoopers was hired by the province to conduct the forensic audit. Those findings were handed over to RCMP in July 2014.

In October 2015, RCMP announced they found a key computer to their investigation in a bank lockbox in Amherst. The seized hard drive, along with the bank log of everyone who accessed the lockbox since 2007, were believed significant to the investigation.

None of the allegations against Kelly have been proven in court.

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