Disheartenment and a loss of trust have been collectively experienced by the community as they’ve learned that Robb Farago, a prominent charity worker in Kitchener-Waterloo and former Wilfrid Laurier University student, was convicted of fraud. He was sentenced to twelve months of probation and forty hours of community service on Sept. 5, 2012, but the information has only just recently gone public.
On May 24, The Waterloo Region Record released information that Farago had fraudulently written cheques totalling $4,273.63 from the KW Polar Plunge to himself. They also reported that he was caught after he fraudulently obtained certified cheques from the Bank of Montreal (BMO) totalling $5,800 that were supposed to go to 5 Days for the Homeless, which Farago was involved with at Laurier in 2011.
5 Days is a national charity organization that is run annually at universities across Canada to raise funds and awareness about youth homelessness. At Laurier, the School of Business and Economics Students’ Society (SBESS) organize it each year.
In an interview with The Record, interim executive director of 5 Days, Evan Thor, refrained from disclosing the amount of money that went missing from the charity. However, he did say that the money involved a “very small percentage of what’s raised online” as well as some local cash donations.
Thor refused to speak to The Cord when asked for an interview.
Dragana Savic, the president of the SBESS during the 2011-12 school year, dealt with the fall out of Farago’s actions, which he committed during the previous year’s campaign. According to Savic, the issue was resolved during her term as president.
“All of the money did end up at charities,” she continued. “We put certain controls in place. The following year’s campaign was a success and everything was very by the book. Everything is now being fully controlled in the sense that there is no way this is going to happen again.”
Laiya Carayannopoulos, the current director of 5 Days at Laurier, explained in an interview with The Cord Community Edition that of the changes made since the incident WLUSU now holds the donated money until it is sent out to charities. They also have strict rules in regards to the handling of the money.
When asked for a follow-up interview with The Cord, Carayannoupoulos declined.
“Those are actions I think you should be doing anyways, but [the incident with Farago] just made me more aware,” Carayannopoulos said.
While dealing with the incident, Savic explained they wanted to keep what had occurred quiet.
“We were worried that the backlash would result in the campaign being shut down or people being opposed to a campaign,” she said.
She was unable to speak to how it has affected 5 Days as a whole, but assumed that its reputation was at least a little damaged.
“But I don’t think at the end of the day, aside from the issue that we dealt with over the year and the pain that it caused, any lasting effects are to be seen on the organization,” she said.
Though she is no longer involved with 5 Days or the SBESS, Savic said she has been closely following the developments of Farago’s case.
When asked what she thought after hearing of his conviction, Savic said, “Obviously I was happy that he was convicted. But it’s still an issue on my end because he wasn’t actually convicted for defrauding these charities.”
She pointed out that the conviction was made for defrauding BMO, not for defrauding 5 Days.
“He still hasn’t been punished in any way for what he did to 5 Days and all these other charities that are on the list that he’s been dealing with,” she added.
Savic didn’t believe anyone would pursue convicting Farago for his crimes against 5 Days, however, as she felt it would only lead to more issues for the organisation and the issue was already taken care of.
In regards to the publicity the incident has been receiving as of late, she commented, “I think it’s enough right now to clue people into exactly what happened, shut down all of those rumours, and give some sort of closure.”
“At the end of the day, it was unfortunate, but it was resolved and we were able to move forward with nothing really being too negatively impacted other than realistically our own sanity over that year long period that we were dealing with it,” Savic concluded.
Farago has not spoken to the media since his actions have surfaced.
– With files from H.G. Watson
*This article has been updated since its original publishing date. *