April 24th, 2024

Former employee facing 14 months in theft case

By Former employee facing 14 months in theft case on March 25, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDDShurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A former Lethbridge woman who stole nearly $47,000 in cash and merchandise from her long-time employer, faces a jail term of up to 14 months if a judge accepts the recommendation by the city’s chief prosecutor.
Crown Prosecutor Dawn Janecke is seeking a jail sentence for Melanie Dawn Vaillancourt of 12 to 14 months, plus probation, for stealing $43,000 from the King of Trade in downtown Lethbridge. Vaillancourt, who worked at the business for about 12 years, also stole thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, which included video games and controllers, and other toys.
Vaillancourt, 40, was charged in March 2019 with fraud over $5,000, theft under $5,000, falsification of documents, possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000 and possession of the proceeds of crime under $5,000. However, her lawyer pleaded guilty on her behalf last November to the single charge of fraud, and sentencing was adjourned.
During a sentencing hearing Monday in Lethbridge provincial court, Janecke said Vaillancourt regularly and consistently between April 2017 and December 2018, defrauded her employer by taking money from the cash register and safe, stealing items, and manipulating inventory on the computer. When police conducted an audit and viewed video surveillance footage, Vaillancourt was seen committing the offences, some of which occurred when she worked on weekends, and even when the store was closed; after she locked up or before she opened.
Janecke noted from the owner’s victim impact statement, that the thefts put his business in jeopardy of bankruptcy, and because of the stress and emotional impact of the crime, he had to have a heart examination a week after the thefts were discovered.
“She was a valued employee for a very long time,” Janecke said. “They were shocked.”
Janecke said the offences are particularly aggravating because Vaillancourt worked in a position of trust and stole a large amount of cash and merchandise. And even though some of the merchandise was recovered, Vaillancourt has not repaid the money she stole, and she stopped stealing only after she was caught.
She is, however, remorseful, Janecke added, and she pleaded guilty, which saved the court from having to run a difficult, costly and time-consuming trial. She has also taken steps to address her drug addiction.
Lethbridge lawyer Ingrid Hess told court Vaillancourt’s circumstances are exceptional and warrant a lesser sentence than sought by the Crown. She recommended a conditional sentence of 18 to 20 months, which would include house arrest, rather than actual jail.
Hess said her client was not living an extravagant lifestyle from her thefts, but was barely surviving as she tried to support her young children and deal with a lazy and abusive boyfriend who got her addicted to drugs.
“She is doing her very best to stay clean,” Hess said.
She said Vaillancourt was a dedicated employee before her life went off the rails, but she is trying to get her life back on track and hopes to get a new job and make restitution.
Hess noted her client now has a supportive boyfriend, and although he is considered by police to be a “prolific property offender,” he has not committed any offences while he has been serving his own conditional sentence, and he and Vaillancourt support each other. Hess added, however, a police officer who works with the man, worries he may have problems if Vaillancourt is sent to jail.
Judge Kristin Ailsby has reserved her decision, and the matter returns for sentencing May 17.

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