HD VLT addict jailed for stealing $77,000 from employer; Woman convicted for second time
Stealing more that $77,000 from her employer to feed a gambling addiction made a Calgary woman a two-time loser in court on Thursday.
Judge Harry Van Harten sentenced to B.W.18 months in jail for fraud- the second time in four years she is being locked up for stealing money from an employer and putting it into video lottery terminals.
B.W., 51, didn’t address the court, but apologized to her former employer, A-Class Autobody, in a written statement ready by defence lawyer, Andrea Urquhart. “In the beginning, they told me I had a job for life- and I betrayed them,” B.W. wrote. B.W. pleaded guilty last August to one court of fraud over $5,000 for stealing $77,142 while working as a part-time bookkeeper for A-Class Autobody between July 2009 and Oct. 2010.
B.W. forged the signature of one of the company’s principals, Raghbir Gill, on 82 cheques she wrote to herself, then altered computer entries to hide the illicit payments. Although the company has recovered financially, Gill said the crime had a devastating effect on his business.
“We had to borrow money after that” he said in an interview.”
“She should have gone away (to prison) for five or six years”
During sentencing arguments, Urquhart said B.W. had stopped gambling following her first conviction, but the deaths of her mother and a close friend triggered a relapse.
“ B.W. relied on the emotional numbing effect of VLTs,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart and Crown prosecutor Pamela McCluskey made a joint sentencing submission, asking for a jail sentence between 15 and 18 months, followed by three years of probation. Urquhart said B.W. realizes she has a problem and has started counseling for her gambling additions.
Arguing for a jail term at the lower end of the range, Urquhart said her client and society would benefit most from a lengthy period of probation.
“Rehabilitation, in my submission, should fall at the top of the list,” she said.
A pre-sentence report characterized B.W. as a low-to-moderate risk to reoffence and said she was a suitable candidate for a conditional sentence.
However, Van Harten said B.W. prior conviction was a “principal aggravating factor,” and opted instead for a jail sentence at the top of the range requested by Urquhart and McCluskey.
In 2008 B.W. was sentenced to a year in jail from defrauding Superior Power Products of $48,520 while working for the company.
Van Harten also placed B.W. under probation for three years following the jail sentence and ordered her to repay $10,000 to A-Class Autobody before the term is up.
"You would be wise to start as soon as possible," Van Harten said.
After A-Class Autobody fired B.W., she found work as a dispatcher - a job that doesn't involve handling money, Urquhart told the court.
B.W. is on a leave of absence from the dispatch job and stands a good chance of getting it back when she's released from jail, added Urquhart.
Although B.W. has been ordered to repay $10,000 to A-Class Autobody, McCluskey noted, "this still leaves the employer out-of-pocket."
Van Harten issued separate orders that allow A-Class Autobody and its insurance company to seek restitution in civil court for the remaining $67,142.
Jason van Rassel, Calgary Herald
January 11 2013