Woman jailed for defrauding business

A woman who stole nearly $170,000 from two businesses owned by a Red Deer man was sentenced to one year in jail on Friday.

A woman who stole nearly $170,000 from two businesses owned by a Red Deer man was sentenced to one year in jail on Friday.

Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Mitchell said Jacklyn Saunders’s victim spent decades building up his small businesses “only to see it effectively destroyed by this woman’s greed and extravagance.”

Saunders was an administrator for Fargey’s Floors and Interiors and a Sears outlet owned by Dennis Lesyk when she began altering cheques to reflect larger sums of money and to whom they were payable in June 2007. By the time the Blackfalds woman’s stealing was detected in September 2008, she had altered 61 cheques worth $167,800.

The banks noticed something amiss and managed to return $51,000 to Lesyk. But the rest of the money disappeared.

Last May, she pleaded guilty to two counts of theft over $5,000.

Mitchell said the amount of money stolen was “simply enormous” and he sharply criticized Saunders for not paying any of it back. The impression left with the court was that she “casually and coldly turned her back on Mr. Lesyk and his family …” said Mitchell before passing sentence.

Saunders was ordered to pay back $116,666.86.

Lesyk took to the stand to tell the court the impact Saunders’s crimes had on his life. In 2007 and 2008 he could not understand why his bank accounts were always empty. His stress at the time was so high, at one point, he was taken to hospital with heart problems and he later underwent two angiograms.

After 30 years in business, he sold both companies last month. Saunders was a trusted employee and Lesyk said he now doubted his ability to judge people’s honesty.

Saunders apologized to Lesyk and said she wished she could undo what she had done. Since her crimes came to light, she and her husband had separated. She lost her house and was working two jobs, only to lose one. Most recently, she worked at a video store.

If she had money she would have paid restitution, she said, adding she was willing to begin paying back her former employer.

Crown prosecutor Tony Bell said the university-educated woman was not suffering from gambling or any other kinds of addictions and the stealing was done to maintain her lifestyle. Bell asked for a one-year jail term.

Defence lawyer Mark Walters, of Calgary asked for a conditional sentence that would spare Saunders a jail term. Walters said his client was struggling at the time of her crimes. She missed her friends in Nova Scotia, felt under-appreciated at work, and at home was trying to keep a failing marriage together.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com