The RCMP have laid 28 fraud-related criminal charges against Leaf Rapids Mayor Geraldine Cockerill, stemming from her time as the former postmistress of the town for Canada Post, a federal Crown corporation.
She is to appear in provincial court in Leaf Rapids March 20.
Cockerill, 56, is in her first term as mayor of the town, having handily defeated then incumbent mayor Ed Charrier by a margin of 155 to 66 votes in the Oct. 27, 2010 municipal election. A third mayoral candidate, Donald F. Dysart, Sr. polled 30 votes.
Leaf Rapids had a total of 453 residents for the last census last year. The town is located 212 kilometres northwest of Thompson and 106 kilometres southeast of Lynn Lake.
In May 2010, Manitoba Family Services and Labour's Employment and Income Assistance program and Canada Post contacted the RCMP Leaf Rapids detachment over suspicious activity at the Canada Post in Leaf Rapids, said Sgt. Line Karpish, a spokesperson for RCMP "D" Division in Winnipeg.
The allegations related to the handling of individuals Income Security cards and cheques by a Canada Post employee.
An investigation began into the allegations and evidence was gathered as the investigation moved forward, Karpish said.
The results of the investigation were forwarded to the Department of Justice's Manitoba Prosecution Service and last month they recommended that charges be laid.
On Dec. 5, RCMP laid 28 charges in connection with this investigation against Cockerill of Leaf Rapids, who was the postmistress at the time of the alleged offences, Karpish said. The evidence gathered suggests a number of fraudulent transactions occurred between December 2009 and April 2010, Karpish said, including forged signatures on Employment and Income Assistance cards and cheques.
Cockerill was charged with:
- Four counts of fraud under $5,000;
- Eight counts of uttering a forged document;
- Eight counts of forgery;
- Eight counts of theft from mail.
On Dec. 11, Cockerill, who remains free, was served a summons to appear in court.
In 1969 Sherritt Gordon Mines discovered a vast copper and zinc ore body at Ruttan Lake, 25 kilometres away from what would become the Leaf Rapids townsite. In July 1970 the newly created Leaf Rapids Development Corporation Ltd. was given responsibility by the province for building the Town of Leaf Rapids, which was created as an experimental town carved out of wilderness between 1971 and 1974.
The town centre was opened in 1974 and won the prestigious Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment the following year. The copper and zinc-producing Ruttan Mine was originally owned by Sherritt Gordon Mines, but was sold to what is now Hudbay Minerals Inc. in 1987.
The company ceased operations of the Ruttan Mine on June 28, 2002 and Leaf Rapids population dropped from 1,309 residents in 2001, the year before the mine closure, to 453 residents last year, a 65.4 per cent population decrease.
Today, 10 years after Ruttan Mine closed, around 57 homes built between 1971 and 1974 on Keyask Bay, Mikinak Bay, Nepin Bay, Mukasew Bay, Utik Bay and Wapoos Bay in Leaf Rapids, are for sale at prices ranging from $20,000 to $40,000.