Money raised for school playground allegedly stolen
- EFN Staff | October 26, 2017
For the past three years, Chief Poundmaker School fundraised to buy their students a brand new playground, raising more than $27,000. It was a project that had the students excited and looking forward to. That playground never did make it to their school yard after the general manager (GM) of a manufacturing company allegedly stole the money.
Alain Desgagne, the GM of Rex RecreActive, approached Chief Poundmaker School a few years back, inquiring about the school’s need for a new playground as their current one needed to be replaced.
Marlene Chickeness, who is the school’s guidance counsellor, said she is in disbelief that a grown man would steal from children.
“[The kids] were very disappointed,” said Chickeness. “The kids are really missing to having something to play on…it’s been like that for two years now.”
Chickeness contacted the manufacturing company called Playtopia, which is based in Kentucky. It was then that she was shocked to learn the company never heard of Chief Poundmaker School and that they weren’t on their distributing list. Afterwards, Chickeness tried numerous times contacting Desgagne but says she was blocked by every form of communication.
She decided to take it to the RCMP, where she later found another shocking discovery. There were six other schools, mostly First Nation schools, had the same problem with Rex RecreActive.
Mary Beaulieu worked in sales along with Desgagne since 2015, but had quit after she attended a sales meeting with him, where he ended up treating her rudely, she recalled.
“In that sales meeting, he was behaving very arrogantly and disrespectful. I ended up quitting,” she said.
Beaulieu was in contact with Playtopia inquiring about the sales she had and discovered that Chief Poundmaker School was not on the list for distribution.
“I contacted [Playtopia] in Kentucky and they told me that they were getting calls from schools that [Alain] took their deposit money and they never heard of him again,” she said. “I think we have a tally of six places that he did this to.”
When asked why she didn’t come forward sooner with this information, she said Desgagne informed her and husband Drew, who worked with Rex RecreActive also, that his wife was diagnosed with cancer. The couple felt the need to give Desgagne some space to deal with the ordeal. But that grace period was over once the paycheques and sales commissions stopped coming in. It was then that they both started to question Desgagne. Along with Chickeness, they were blocked from any communication with Desgagne.
“I think [Alain] owes us about $10,000 in lost wages and the commissions that he never paid us for those sales,” she said.
Beaulieu is currently the owner of Playtopia Playgrounds Canada and has set up a system with the manufacturer in Kentucky to ensure this doesn’t happen to anymore schools.
“All the money that comes for a playground goes directly to the manufacturer. No monies will ever go through me,” Beaulieu said. “I’m just going to be in charge of the installs…to try stop this from happening again.”
Beaulieu and Chickeness hopes people will be aware of this man and to take precaution when dealing with companies.
Eagle Feather News tried contacting Desgagne but was unsuccessful at finding any contact information for him and his wife Karen.