Assistant who stole from Okanagan hospice now in finance for another charity - InfoNews

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Assistant who stole from Okanagan hospice now in finance for another charity

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March 06, 2019 - 9:44 AM

KAMLOOPS — The former administrative assistant of the Central Okanagan Hospice Association was sentenced to five months in jail after stealing more than $69,000 from the non-profit organization. 

Melanie Joanne Gray, 42, pleaded guilty to theft and fraud over $5,000 after it was discovered she had stolen nearly $70,000 from the hospice organization between 2013 to 2015.

Kamloops Judge Stephen Harrison said in his judgment yesterday, March 5, Gray was issued a credit card in July 2012 by the organization for work-related expenses. The card was under Gray's name and her employer was responsible for paying the bill.

The discovery of the fraud came through an audit conducted in 2016. Gray admitted to the board of directors she had been using the credit card for her personal benefit and not work-related purposes which she says, totaled around $65,000, Harrison read in his decision.

The hospice association supports more than 1,000 families and individuals who are dying or grieving the loss of a loved one, Harrison said. The judge also said the organization relies heavily on the community's donations for their budget.

Gray wasn't the only society employee caught in the audit. Susan Maureen Steen, who is the former executive director of the hospice association was also charged with fraud and theft for stealing more than $100,000 from the organization. Harrison said the deceit has caused the society's directors disbelief and anger, Harrison said.

Steen was also convicted late last year of stealing from another hospice society in Nanaimo and sentenced to four months in prison and two years probation. She blamed a gambling addiction for her crimes. She is due in court May 31, 2019 where she indicated her intention to plead guilty on the Central Okanagan hospice thefts. 

Gray has a 17-year-old daughter and now lives and works in Kamloops for a non-profit society as a finance coordinator, court heard. She had no restrictions on future employment, though one condition of her sentence is to ensure future employers are aware of her conviction. Harrison says Gray had also been diagnosed with depression but says it is unclear if the diagnosis had any role in her offence.

Gray, who didn't have a lawyer and represented herself in court, was sentenced to five months in jail as well as a two-year probation.

She was also ordered to pay a restitution of $69,000.

Natasha Girard, executive director with the Central Okanagan Hospice Association, declined to comment on the sentencing, simply stating that the organization is moving forward.

— This story was updated on March 6, 2019 at 11:31 a.m. to include a comment from the hospice association.


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