Toronto police are investigating "a few key individuals" in connection with an estimated $1.2-million fraud allegedly committed over three years at York University.
York officials confirmed that former employees who left the university in 2010 are under scrutiny, and The Globe and Mail has learned that a once-senior, long-term employee of the school is the focal point of the investigation.
York unearthed apparent fraudulent activities in an internal probe that has lasted 20 months and saw the university hire forensic accounting firm Navigant to prepare a detailed report. In May, Navigant's file revealed "a number of irregularities," and the university "immediately handed over the relevant materials to the Toronto Police Service," with whom it has since been working closely, according to a statement released Thursday.
York officials are anticipating that criminal charges will be laid, but have declined to provide further details to avoid compromising the ongoing police investigation.
"We understand the dimension of the issue," a York spokesperson said Friday morning. "We are taking all measures available to recover the money."
In December of 2009, senior managers at York learned of apparent fraudulent activities that allegedly began in 2007 and continued until early 2010. The university launched a "comprehensive" internal investigation and soon hired Navigant, which is Chicago-based but has offices in Canada, after preliminary inquiries suggested fraud had occurred.
With nearly 55,000 students, more than 7,000 faculty and staff and an annual budget of about $900-million, York is one of Canada's largest universities, but it is not clear where in its financial structure the irregularities appeared.
"York deeply values the trust placed in the university by our students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the York community and we have no tolerance for abuse of this trust," the university said in its public statement.