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Pandemic court leniencies keep woman convicted of defrauding employer out of jail


By Alex McCuaig, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

MEDICINE HAT NEWS

A 39-year-old bookkeeper entered a guilty plea to a fraud-related charge involving her former employer but avoided a jail sentence Thursday at Medicine Hat Court of Queen’s Bench.

But Bobbi-Lee Stubbins’ plea deal to a lesser charge of fraudulent concealment from fraud over $5,000 won’t be finalized just yet after Justice Dallas Miller raised concerns regarding the joint defence-Crown sentencing submission.

The court heard Stubbins’ was employed at a local crane business when its owner notified police of suspicious e-transfer transactions amounting to nearly $15,000 during the first five months of 2018.

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The investigation determined only the company owner and Stubbins had access to the business’s bank account.

The matter was originally scheduled for a four-day jury trial set to start this week with the matter being resolved following the woman’s guilty plea to a lesser charge.

Crown Jace Cowan told the court when an accused is facing conviction on charges involving a breach of trust of an employer and employee, “often that leads to custody.”

But he added that due to directions to minimize incarcerations for non-violent offences due to COVID-19, a community sentence and probation “would meet the public interest in a time of a pandemic.”

While he didn’t take issue with the sentence, Justice Miller did with the lack of any restitution being paid yet and conditions which would ensure it will be.

“To me, restitution should be the first thing for the accused if they want the favour of the court for sentencing,” he said.

Defence lawyer Greg White said that just wasn’t possible until recently as Stubbins’ primary trade being a hair-stylist and only recently finding a full-time job outside that industry.

White added when it comes to paying restitution, “If she went into custody, she couldn’t do that.”

Appearing to fight back tears, Stubbins told the court that because pandemic restrictions deeply affected hairstylists, she has only been able to work four months of the past year.

Pending acceptance of a tightened up community sentence order, Stubbins will be serving a nine-month community sentence.

She will also be sentenced to an additional 36 months of probation that will require her to pay back $14,800 over that time period.