A woman who defrauded her employer of more than $300,000 over seven years was given a two-year prison sentence Wednesday.
Loretta Sutherland, 68, was a clerk in an office of Graham Group, Graham Industrial Services and Graham Construction and Engineering, and was responsible for receiving and submitting vendor invoices.
Court documents indicate she created a fictitious business account called Southerland’s in 2000, using her home address as the billing address. Over the next seven years she created 109 false invoices, cashing the cheques herself to a total of $303,836.
Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart told court Sutherland was a long-time employee in a key position and said she "took advantage of that key role."
Sutherland, who pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000, has made no attempt to repay the money and reportedly still draws a pension from the company.
Due to her age, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eric Macklin said it pained him greatly to send Sutherland to prison, but told court he wanted to send a clear message that thieving employees of any age will not be treated lightly.
“It is absolutely crucial that the public, particularly those employed in positions of trust, understand they must uphold and maintain that trust to their utmost ability,” Macklin said. He also issues a restitution order as part of the sentence.
How to prevent employee theft:
- have clear policies on theft, employee purchases, refunds, use of equipment and staff discounts
- do proper pre-employment screening do thorough pre-employment screening to check whether employees have a history of dishonesty with previous employers
- ensure that no single person has sole control over payment systems ensure that no single person has control over payment systems
- look for red flags, like employees whose lifestyles seem out of line with their compensation have a lifestyle out of line with their remuneration.