'She needs to stay in her lane': Ford takes aim at auditor general after casino sting operation
Published Thursday, December 1, 2022 12:47PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 1, 2022 12:50PM EST
Premier Doug Ford says Ontario’s auditor general needs to “stay in her lane” after she ordered a casino-sting operation in the province.
Ford made the comments about Bonnie Lysyk during a press conference Thursday, the day after the annual auditor general report was released.
“The auditor general has to stay in her line and focus on where there's a waste of money,” Ford said. “You can’t do a sting operation, you can’t all of a sudden deputize yourself and think you’re the secret service – going around and doing sting operations that failed, by the way.”
The mystery shoppers were hired from a private consulting firm by Lysyk as part of an audit of Ontario’s Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) conducted between January and September 2022 in an effort to determine whether it was possible to launder money through casinos.
The shoppers entered the casinos with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $11,000 in cash, played at table games and slots for 10 to 15 minutes, and then proceeded to be cashed out with cheques, according to the report.
The auditor says, although staff attempted to verify whether the mystery shopper had played at the casino, some failed to verify whether the funds were coming from legitimate wins.
At two casinos, mystery shoppers were able to obtain four casino cheques for between $4,900 and $10,750 with limited play and no casino winnings.
“Now these funds could be considered ‘laundered’ because the cheque could be represented as casino winnings as the source of funds for deposit at a bank," it said.
Shoppers were unsuccessful at two other casinos – at one in Windsor, Ont., shoppers were “appropriately” turned away. At another – the location was not provided – OPP officers were notified of suspicious activity and investigated the mystery shoppers for the potential threat of money laundering.
The shoppers investigated by the OPP were provided with trespassing notices to the casinos – a move that saw Ford express sympathy for those involved.
“These poor folks that they hired are now banned from the casinos,” he said.
Ford called the move “mission creep,” suggesting it overstepped into police jurisdiction, and saying such behaviours seem to constitute “a pattern” for Lysyk.
“I can’t speak for the police, but I know they wouldn’t be happy, whether it be OPP, local police, or RCMP,” he said. “It seems like a pattern for this auditor general.”
Within her report, Lysyk acknowledged the overlap, and said that “since 2019, OLG has consulted with OPP officers [..] to discuss patrons being considered for trespass notices, and to ensure that OLG’s actions do not interfere with any ongoing OPP investigations.”
While offering criticism to Lysyk, Ford underlined he ultimately welcomes the auditing process.
“I welcome the auditors,” he said. “They have an opportunity to dig deep and audit areas, and I welcome that.”
“Just stay in your lane.”