Full investigation underway over Salvation Army toy theft
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:42PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 21, 2012 4:11PM EST
A full police investigation is underway after an internal audit revealed millions of dollars’ worth of toys have vanished from the Salvation Army's Railside Road warehouse in Toronto.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Salvation Army spokesperson Major John Murray said a whistleblower first called attention to the missing toys in mid-August, prompting the organization to launch an internal probe.
“As our investigation progressed, we discovered that we had been the victims of an alleged theft and fraud which might eventually total several million dollars,” he said, explaining that the organization considers each and every donation to be “sacred.”
When its auditors pored over the warehouse records, Murray said, “what we found, to say the least, was troubling.”
That’s when the police were called in, he added, telling reporters it will be up to criminal investigators to determine the whereabouts of the missing merchandise.
In the meantime, he sought to assure anyone considering donating to the organization that this was an isolated incident.
"We have no reason to believe this happened anywhere else, we believe that it's been very specific, it's been targeted, it's been strategic in the way that it's been put together," Murray said."We believe it's happened over an approximately 24-month period of time."
According to the results of its internal investigation, the Salvation Army estimates the value of the missing toys at approximately $2 million. That's about one year’s worth of donations.
When asked what happened to the Railside Road warehouse’s executive director David Rennie in the course of that internal audit, Murray said "due diligence" was taken by the Salvation Army.
“Our executive director here was put on a paid leave of absence," he said. “The second thing the Salvation Army did was move to terminate the executive director and as of last Monday…he’s no longer an employee.”
Rennie was brought on as a consultant following a devastating fire at the Salvation Army warehouse in 2008. The hope was he could clean up the operation after millions of dollars in food and toys were destroyed.
As the investigation continues, Murray appealed to the public not to lose faith in his organization.
"We are bringing in KPMG as external auditors to conduct a forensic examination, our insurers have been put on notice, and they will also be bringing in their own organization to conduct a criminal forensic audit in partnership with police and the Salvation Army," he said.
"Our protective systems worked ... We're strengthening them and we anticipate recovering most of the losses through our insurers and the generosity of Canadians."
With files from CTV Crime Reporter Tamara Cherry