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Christmas market organizer in Kitchener, Ont. charged with fraud


The organizer of two Waterloo Region Christmas markets has been arrested after admitting she gambled away the deposit money of vendors.

Waterloo regional police said a 52-year-old Cambridge woman was charged Sunday with fraud over $5,000.

Between Oct. 27 and Nov. 10, police received 55 reports of fraud from vendors of “It’s a Christmas Market.” The event was planned Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Bingemans conference centre in Kitchener.

Twelve vendors also contacted police alleging fraud in connection to a second event, "Christmas Shopalooza", on Sunday, Nov. 19 at the Hespeler Legion in Cambridge.

In a phone interview with CTV News, the original organizer confirmed she lost upwards of $20,000 in vendor deposits through gambling.

The 52-year-old Cambridge woman is set to appear in court on Dec. 20, 2023.

Police believe there may be more victims who experienced a financial loss in this case. They’re asked to call police, who say their investigation is ongoing.


One vendor who is organizing a replacement holiday market at the Hespeler Legion said she’s pleased about the developments in the case.

“I’m glad. She needs to pay for what she did,” Debbie Mills said in an interview.

“That is way too many people that she scammed and way too much money. She needs to be held accountable to everyone so that we can feel some sort of relief.”

Despite the roller coaster over the past few weeks, Mills said the work she took on in organzing a new market has been worth it.

The market, taking the place of the original Shopalooza event, will take place on Sunday, Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. for 4 p.m.

“We’re really excited,” Mills said.

“We feel it’s going to be bigger and better than it was originally going to be, and next year’s show is already booked with the legion. We’re ready to rock and roll on Nov. 16, 2024.”

Entry to this Sunday’s market is free, but donations of non-perishable food items for the food bank are encouraged.

There are more than 40 vendors registered and they all offer different products.


The markets' original organizer, Stacy Cliff, admitted she lost the money in a post on a private Facebook page.

“It is with my most profound apologies that my mental health addiction compiled with my absolute selfishness has created a storm I cannot control,” she wrote. “So many of you have followed me, had faith and trusted me through good and bad events. I’ve taken that trust, and wors[e], your money, and have done the very worst I can do, which is not putting it where it belongs.”

In a phone interview earlier this month, Cliff confirmed to CTV News that she lost the money through gambling.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “It all just snowballed. I kept thinking that I’d spend $100 here, $100 there and I’d be able to get a big win and put it all back. And that never happened.”

Stacy Cliff talks to CTV News during a past market. (File photo/CTV Kitchener)

Cliff, who also has a business called Stacy’s Events, previously worked with some of the vendors who had participated in past markets.

“I’m terribly sorry. I know that that won’t fix anything, that won’t give them any money back. It means nothing to most probably, but that’s all I can say,” she wrote in the post.

Cliff told CTV News she never gave Bingemans the deposit money and estimated she lost between $20,000 and $30,000.

The approximately 200 vendors, meanwhile, paid $100 to $200 to secure their spot at the market.

Combined with the amount they spent to prepare and stock up for the event, vendors worried they would lose more than just their deposit.

“Everything I had been working on until that point was for nothing,” vendor Tricia Teves told CTV News on Nov. 1.


After weeks of scandal and controversy, the Bingemans Christmas market went ahead as planned Sunday thanks to the hard work of both vendors and community members.

The newly renamed “A Holiday Market” was held at the Kitchener conference centre.

The newly renamed “A Holiday Market” went ahead on Sunday Nov. 12, thanks to the hard work of vendors and community members who scrambled to pull it together after Cliff cancelled the “It’s a Christmas Market.” (CTV Kitchener)

“It’s amazing,” said Stephanie Henderson, the owner of Lithostalgia. “I actually didn’t think it was going to happen.”

“I cried a few times today, I’ll be honest,” said new market organizer Sierra Gregorio. “I’m just filled with joy and happiness.”

Vendors told CTV News they felt blindsided when Cliff announced the sudden cancellation of the market on Oct. 26.

“A lot of people use this for their Christmas money and their income,” Gail Relf, the owner of Howling Moose, said. “To know that somebody just pulled the rug out from underneath everybody was just shocking.”

“She should be on the naughty list for the next 25 years,” added Henderson.

Vendors and organizers worked together to find new sponsors who could cover the costs.

Bingemans also offered a significant discount on the venue.

“Everything fell into place, and here we are today,” said Gregorio. “I’m so glad that we’re here.”

More than 180 vendors set up Sunday at the conference centre.

They called it a happy ending for both business owners and the community.

“The fact that we could turn this around and make it a happy thing has been amazing,” Butler said.

-- With reporting by Tyler Kelaher, Stefanie Davis and Chris Thomson


A previous version of this story included a different title for the Cambridge event. Police updated their release on Nov. 13 to indicate its correct name was "Christmas Shopalooza." Top Stories

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