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Lecce staffer suspended after being charged with defrauding Vaughan legion

Stephen Lecce, the PC MPP for King-Vaughan, said his office wasn't aware the police were investigating his constituency employee until she was charged
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce steps to the podium before speaking to journalists at the Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a Village Media website devoted exclusively to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.

A staff member in Progressive Conservative MPP Stephen Lecce's constituency office has been suspended from her job after York Regional Police announced it charged her for allegedly defrauding a local Royal Canadian Legion branch where she'd previously been president.

Giuseppina Fedele, who worked in Lecce's MPP office in King-Vaughan, and Nicola Pinto, who also has past involvement in Conservative politics, were each charged with fraud and possession of property obtained by crime, according to police service.

The charges have not been tried in court. They do not relate to Fedele's or Pinto's work in politics.

"Upon learning of the charges against Ms. Fedele, her employment was immediately suspended," Lecce said in a statement provided to NewmarketToday.

Fedele could not be reached through Lecce's constituency office on Monday. Pinto did not answer an email sent to him on Tuesday ahead of this story's publication.

In his statement, Lecce, Ontario's education minister, declined to comment on any of the specifics of the case in order to "respect the process" of a matter that's now in court. 

York Regional Police said it was given information in January 2022 about a former president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #414 having "wrote cheques to herself using the legion's account and using the funds for her personal use." 

Through the investigation, it was learned that between 2017 and 2019, a person wrote herself 34 cheques and made seven electronic money transfers to her account totalling over $33,518, police said. A former treasurer participated by signing 24 of the written cheques, said police, adding the investigation is ongoing.

Carmine Iacono, the current president of the Vaughan legion that Fedele and Pinto have been charged for allegedly defrauding, declined to weigh in on the situation when asked by NewmarketToday. 

“This matter is before the courts and as such we are not commenting on this matter,” Iacono said. “We have confidence in the judicial system.”

Fedele and Pinto both live in Vaughan, according to York's police.

Fedele — under the name Josie Fedele, which she goes by — was listed as a member of Lecce's team for the Run for Vaughan event, a fundraiser held in support of the local hospital on Sunday, a day before police publicized the charges.

"At no point was my office made aware of this investigation, until the YRP statement today," Lecce said in a statement on Monday.

Fedele's work for Lecce dates back until at least 2021, records found online show. Less than two weeks ago, Fedele was listed as the contact for Lecce's constituency office on a news release announcing $200,000 in new provincial funding for York Regional Police, which was posted on another PC MPP's website.

Her involvement in the PC Party predates working for Lecce, who was elected provincially in 2018, by at least several years.

She was listed as the Vaughan riding association's chief financial officer from Aug. 20, 2014 to March 1, 2016, before holding the same title for Vaughan-Woodbridge's constituency association from March 1, 2016 to October 2017, according to a spokesperson for Elections Ontario.

Fedele was also the campaign manager for Peter Meffe when he ran as PC candidate in Vaughan in the 2014 provincial election against Steven Del Duca, who won the seat with the Liberals in that election and is now Vaughan's mayor. 

Pinto is also a past PC Party riding executive, having been elected in 2012 as president of its Vaughan association, according to a story from May of that year.

Pinto has also run for election in Vaughan during each of its last three election cycles. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to become a municipal councillor in 2014 and 2018, and to become a regional councillor in 2022.