Toronto police have charged five people with defrauding a school for special needs children of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Police say an audit showed that four employees and another person not employed by the school misappropriated about $700,000 from the Bloorview School Authority.

The school is located in the same facility as the Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation hospital and provides school programs for children with special needs.

Det. Adkin Holder of the Toronto Police Service fraud squad said the suspects allegedly misused school credit cards and falsified timecards.

"It has to do with over-payments, use of school credit cards, people being paid for work not done, some vacation payouts," said Holder.
Staff shocked

Police say when former principal Linda LaRocque retired, the new principal noticed irregularities and ordered an audit by a forensic accounting firm.

In a statement posted on Bloorview's website, director Saryl Jacobson said news of the charges have left staff shocked.

"I am saddened that the school authority has been subject to alleged fraudulent activity. We take this matter very seriously and the School Authority's Board, administration and staff are co-operating fully with the police investigation," said Jacobson in the message.

"Immediately following the school authority's internal investigation, we strengthened our financial controls to minimize the risk of future fraudulent activity."

Facing fraud charges are LaRocque, 63, of Vernon, B.C.; former business and finance manager Paula Gerolimon, 49, of Richmond Hill, Ont.; former administrative assistant Bo-Reum Han, 38, of Mississauga, Ont.; former secretary Rose Hudson, 37, of Brampton, Ont.; and Sandra Charles, 36, of Toronto.

According to police, Charles did not work at the school.

"She wasn't employed by the school but was friends with the office staff; they were former co-workers," said Holder.

Gerolimon and LaRocque also face charges of laundering proceeds of crime and Gerolimon faces an additional charge of falsification of books or documents.

The accused are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 15.