Couple to face charges in Imagine Adoption case

August 16, 2012 00:08:00
Dianne Wood, Record staff
KITCHENER — It’s been three years since hundreds of families across Canada — including many in Waterloo Region — were left devastated by the collapse of Imagine Adoption.

On Monday, the estranged couple who ran the Cambridge-based international adoption agency will be in court to face allegations they used corporate funds for personal use.

Susan Hayhow, the agency’s executive director, and Rick Hayhow, its chief financial officer, will have a preliminary hearing in Kitchener’s Ontario Court on numerous counts of fraud and breach of trust.

A preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial. Three days have been scheduled — Aug. 20, 22 and 24.

Earlier this year, there were talks between Rick Hayhow’s lawyer and the Crown about a possible guilty plea. But federal prosecutor David Foulds said Thursday that Rick Hayhow has decided to have a trial.

The couple was jointly charged in 2009 with breach of trust, six counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of fraud under $5,000. Each was also individually charged with one count of fraud over $5,000.

The charges followed an investigation by Waterloo Regional Police into allegations the Hayhows charged more than $300,000 to agency credit cards for personal purchases before the agency went bankrupt in July 2009.

These included trips to Disney World and New York City, spa visits, home renovations and the purchase of a horse and saddle. The couple drove leased luxury vehicles and paid themselves a combined income of $320,000 a year.

Families who hoped to adopt children from overseas — mainly Ethiopia — were left in shock by the agency’s collapse. Many had paid up to $15,000 to adopt a child.

The creditors initially filed claims as part of the bankruptcy process. But they eventually decided to pay an extra $4,000 each to cover the cost of restructuring the agency under new management and continue with adoptions.

The Hayhows separated about four months before the bankruptcy.