A former Slocan Lake RCMP officer accused of falsifying an expense claim told a Nelson courtroom Thursday she made a simple mistake.
Cst. Kelly Barrie, 32, was charged with fraud and false pretenses after submitting a claim for $125 with a largely blacked-out hotel receipt attached.
Barrie said she believed she was entitled to reimbursement while in Kelowna for a medical appointment — but didn’t want her superiors to know she stayed in the same room as her fiancé, Cst. Sam Nakatsu, who was under a court order to keep away from her at the time.
However, the receipt aroused suspicions when a supervisor discovered Nakatsu submitted an expense claim for the same night, November 24, 2010. The hotel registration was under his name and paid for with his credit card.
The Crown claimed Barrie willfully deceived her employer with a bogus claim, but the defence countered that Barrie and Nakatsu commonly shared expenses, and she mistakenly believed he filed his claim for a different day. She blacked out portions of the receipt she considered irrelevant, including Nakatsu’s name, she said.
Her claim was never paid, although she was reimbursed for two subsequent stays in Kelowna.
Barrie and Nakatsu were in a relationship for most of 2010, but things got rocky in the latter half of that year, she testified.
While details were not revealed in court, on November 10 police were called to their home in New Denver due to a domestic dispute and Nakatsu was arrested. He was released the same evening on conditions not to contact Barrie, but never actually charged.
Two weeks later the officers, both on stress leave, met in Kelowna where each had a medical appointment. They went out for dinner and stayed in the same hotel room, despite the no-contact order. (Nakatsu faces a separate trial next month for the alleged breach.)
Crown prosecutor Kevin Fotty explained the count of false pretenses relates to Barrie requesting a receipt from the hotel even though it was in Nakatsu’s name. Fotty alleged Barrie referred to herself as Nakatsu’s wife to obtain it, but Barrie denied trying to mislead hotel staff, and noted her email address was on the account.
Defence lawyer Richard Hewson suggested RCMP policy over expense claims is vague and confusion over dates accounted for the trouble: Nakatsu’s conditions aside, had the officers submitted expense claims for different days, there would have been no issue, he said.
“Did you think you were doing anything wrong or dishonourable?” Hewson asked.
“Absolutely not,” Barrie replied.
She said she has blacked out irrelevant data from expense claims before without issue, but Sgt. Darryl Little, who reviewed the forms, didn’t see it that way.
“The areas blacked out were a concern,” he testified. “It struck me as very unusual. Highly suspicious.”
Hewson, however, said it did not betray a guilty conscience.
“If she was conscious of being guilty of anything, it was being party to Cst. Nakatsu breaching his bail order,” he said.
He further argued there was no intent to defraud: “She put the wrong date on a form … It’s a clerical error. A mistake.”
Fotty, however, disagreed: “I would say it has deceit and falsehood written all over it.”
Judge Ron Fabbro asked if Barrie was obliged to make more inquiries before filing her claim, but Hewson noted that contacting Nakatsu would have resulted in a further breach of his conditions.
Little was the only witness to testify for the Crown, while the defence called Barrie and Nakatsu.
Barrie, who joined the RCMP in 2004, worked in the Kootenays from 2009 until 2011, first at the Slocan Lake detachment in New Denver, and then briefly in Castlegar.
Nakatsu worked in Nakusp. Both have since transferred to Williams Lake. Although no longer engaged, Nakatsu said they remain “close friends.”
The one-day trial concluded Thursday afternoon. The judge will set a date next Wednesday to deliver his verdict.