Alleged $8M fraud leads to front-office firing at Alberta Motor Association

EDMONTON – The Alberta Motor Association has filed a lawsuit against a former executive, alleging he swindled $8 million from the organization and bought lavish homes and vehicles.

The lawsuit claims James Gladden misappropriated the funds dating back to at least 2013 while he was vice-president of information technology at AMA.

The suit also names Gladden’s wife, Dana, and several companies he was involved in.

It alleges Gladden authorized fake invoices and wired payments to various banks in the United States and China.

“Mr. Gladden was provided with and exercised discretion and authority to authorize payments on invoices. As a result, the AMA was particularly vulnerable to any misuse by Mr. Gladden,” said the statement of claim, filed last week in Edmonton.

“The investigation is ongoing and further instances of misappropriated funds may be discovered.”

A lawyer for the AMA also appeared in court last week asking for an injunction. A judge agreed to freeze Gladden’s bank accounts and assets, including a vacation home in Scottsdale, Ariz., a boat, two Porsches and a Maserati.

The suit also claims Gladden bought an extravagant home in southwest Edmonton and a downtown office building with the embezzled money.

Gladden has not filed a statement of defence and the lawsuit contains allegations that have not been proven in court.

Edmonton police spokeswoman Noreen Remtulla said a complaint about the case was received last week and officers with the economic crime unit are investigating. No charges have been laid.

The Alberta Motor Association has nearly one million members and advocates for traffic safety, sells auto, home and travel insurance, travel packages and roadside assistance.

An affidavit filed in court by the AMA’s chief operating officer, Michelle Chimko, detailed how the organization first became suspicious of Gladden.

Chimko said that Gladden was allowed to work some hours from home in August 2015 because of a leg injury. He did not recover quickly, remained away from his office for many months and failed to show up for meetings, she said.

Two months ago, he was asked to go on disability leave but became upset and refused, said the affidavit. He was ordered to take disability and, after he was replaced, questions surfaced about his invoices.

Gladden was fired on July 20, Chimko said in the affidavit.

The AMA said in a statement Monday that insurance will cover any financial losses and customer information has not been compromised. It added that additional controls have been put in place to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“We expect all our employees to perform their duties in a manner that maintains and enhances the public’s confidence and trust in our organization,” the organization’s statement read.

“AMA takes cases of improper conduct very seriously and when the matter was brought to senior management, we acted swiftly and decisively.”