Thursday, May 27, 2010
Should woman who stole $230K from employer, be jailed?
A judge is weighing whether a Winnipeg woman who cheated her employer of $230,000 should go to jail or be allowed to serve a conditional sentence in the community.
Linda Cousins, 48, has pleaded guilty to one count of theft over $5,000.
Court heard Cousins was the financial controller for Imperial Flooring when, in 2006, she began processing additional paycheques for herself. Over the course of 20 months, Cousins processed more than 65 bogus cheques to herself, one as high as $6,300.
Cousins claims her crimes were driven by depression and a gambling addiction.
"There was a point in my life when I could not feel anything," Cousins told court. "That's why I started to gamble."
Crown attorney Don Melnyk said there was little suggestion Cousins suffered from a "pathological" gambling addiction, noting she spent much of the money on groceries and mortgage payments. Melnyk recommended Cousins serve a high jail term of up to two years less a day.
Defence lawyer Lisa Labossiere said jail time isn't necessary, arguing Cousins poses no risk to the community and has suffered "public shaming" as a result of her arrest.
Labossiere said her client had an abusive upbringing that prompted her to leave home at 15. Financial setbacks left her suicidal and depressed, Labossiere said. That led to gambling and VLT losses of up to $500 a day.
"She is ashamed and humiliated by what she has done," Labossiere said. "As a mother, she wanted to be a role model for her sons."
Judge Lynn Stannard adjourned sentencing to next month.
This woman should NOT receive jail time. I think a conditional sentence would be more appropriate. Her crimes were driven by addiction, need, and mental illness. She is humiliated and ashamed and has suffered from "public shaming." Jail is not necessary as I feel it should only be intended for those who are dangerous to the community, violent and have serious criminal records. This woman does not fit the bill. Jail will likely only worsen her mental illnesses and conditions and not have any positive impact on her life or assist her in rehabilitation or reintegration. She should serve a conditional sentence with conditions to find employment, attend counseling for her abusive upbringing and mental illnesses and addictions including depression and gambling, community service work and restitution to the company she stole from through community service work.