The investigation is still ongoing...
November 30, 2010
CAMBRIDGE — Fraud investigators are still sifting through documents more than 16 months after an international adoption agency went bankrupt.
“I wish I could, but at this point in time I can’t commit to when we’re going to be completed the investigation,” said Staff Sgt. Dale Roe, head of the Waterloo Regional Police fraud branch. “We are making progress.”
The collapse of Imagine Adoption in July 2009 shocked more than 400 Canadian families hoping to adopt children from overseas, primarily Ethiopia.
Police began probing the Cambridge agency after allegations surfaced of six-figure salaries, leased luxury vehicles and more than $300,000 in suspect expenses charged by senior executives Susan and Rick Hayhow.
Included in the expenses were a horse and saddle, cosmetic dental surgery, trips to Disney World and New York City, and extensive renovations at the couple’s Cambridge house.
Roe said the “quite active” investigation involves one local officer and a member of the RCMP.
“It’s just a complex, long investigation and there is a lot of paperwork to go through,” he said.
In a court document used to obtain financial records for the non-profit agency, police alleged that credit cards were used for personal expenses, senior staff overpaid themselves and “excessive funds” were transferred to Ethiopia.
Susan Hayhow, the executive director, and Rick Hayhow, the chief financial officer, have not commented publicly since the Christian agency went bust.
The couple separated about four months before the bankruptcy. Rick Hayhow resigned and was given a year’s pay as severance without approval by the agency’s board of directors.
Two board members were alarmed after discovering the deal. They began scrutinizing the agency’s finances and went to police with their findings.
After months of turmoil, a majority of clients voted to salvage the agency with a new board and much smaller staff.
Families paid an extra $4,000 each – on top of previous fees of $15,000 or more – to put the agency on solid financial ground. Adoptions have since resumed.