Former Oliver Elementary School PAC treasurer avoids jail time after stealing almost 11K | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Former Oliver Elementary School PAC treasurer avoids jail time after stealing almost 11K

Shyanne Kruger will serve a seven month conditional sentence following completion of one more month conventional jail time following sentencing in Penticton court today, April 3, 2017.

The former treasurer of the Oliver Elementary School parent advisory council will not being spending time in prison despite admitting to fraud over $5,000.

At the Penticton courthouse today, Sept. 17, Belinda Yorke was given to a two-year conditional sentence, followed by one year of probation, and will have to return nearly $11,000 to the PAC.

That was a much more lenient sentence than what Crown counsel John Swanson was seeking. He requested that Justice Harry Slade impose a prison sentence ranging from six to 12 months.

While reading the facts of the case, Swanson told Justice Slade that Yorke was elected to the position of treasure in June 2016 and served until Jan. 13, 2018, when she resigned in light of financial irregularities being discovered. The Crown alleged she made cheques from the PAC accounts payable to herself or her husband, and failed to deposit cash from fundraisers. When fellow members of the PAC executive committee asked about the financial status, Yorke would lie to them.

As treasurer, Yorke had access to the PAC’s main bank account through Valley First credit Union, as well as a separate account where provincial gaming grants were deposited into.

Swanson said that smaller fundraising efforts – like selling hot dogs and pop for lunch and cookie dough sales – were almost exclusively cash transactions. When the PAC would run larger fundraising events, which happened about once per month, money raised would come in the form of both cash and cheques.

“When questioned about the PAC account by other members of the PAC executive at regular meetings of the PAC executive, Ms. Yorke repeatedly failed to provide detailed accounting records or lied to them about the amount of money that was in those account,” Swanson said.

“Specifically, In the summer of 2017, Ms. Yorke has run the general account balance down to the point where there was only $154 in the account, but she told the other members of the PAC executive that there was several thousands dollars in the account.”

READ MORE: South Okanagan woman pleads guilty to stealing PAC funds

By January 2018, another board member, Marnee Vala, became suspicious as the treasurer was unable to provide detailed financial reports, and also because a fundraising event that posted a deficit would historically generate a profit.

Vala decided to go to the credit union and ask for copies of the banking statements.

“When Ms. Vala examined the bank statements for the PAC she discovered that the balances in the accounts were not the same as the amounts that Ms. Yorke had claimed in the most recent meeting of the executive PAC,” Swanson said.

“Ms. Vala then analyzed those statements and discovered the fraudulent withdrawals and the failure to deposit money from the fundraising activities. The fraudulent withdrawals were made by Ms. Yorke writing and signing numerous cheques that were payable either to herself or to her husband.”

Concerns were then shared with other members of the PAC, the school principal and the RCMP.

During that same month of January 2018, the RCMP as well as the provincial Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch both launched an investigations into the PAC’s spending.

After RCMP investigators obtained copies of Mr Yorke’s bank account statements, they discovered $8,188 of PAC funds had been deposited in into Yorke’s personal checking account. An additional audit found that Yorke failed to deposit $2,508.17 in cash from fundraisers into the PAC’s general account.

The audit established that nearly $11,000 was stolen from the PAC.

“It was further discovered that Ms. Yorke transferred $4,000 from the gaming account into the general account, in November 2017, the apparent purpose of that transfer was to conceal the fact that she had been stealing money from the general account,” Swanson said.

READ MORE: Former Oliver Elementary PAC treasurer pleads guilty to theft

Defence lawyer Michael Patterson argued that jail time was not an appropriate sentence.

Yorke has become a “pariah” in her own community because of her actions, he said, and she suffers from several health issues. Prison would prevent her from being a caretaker for her son, father, and stepmother, he said.

She probably won’t get the opportunity to commit a similar crime again since the trial has been widely publicized, Patterson said, and there’s no evidence to suggest the money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle or to support and alcohol or drug addiction.

“Living in a small town I’ve been made aware of my actions every minute of every day,” Yorke told Justice Slade. “For the last three years since this was publicized I have been house bound.”

She said she will never forgive herself for what her son has had to go through.

“I can’t look myself in the mirror for what I’ve done. There will never be forgiveness and I will never move on. I am extremely, extremely apologetic and remorseful.”

In the sentencing report, Justice Slade agreed with Crown that Yorke’s actions were not a case of a momentary lapse in judgement or a one-off decision, but rather “a repeated and calculated effort to steal money that was supposed to benefit elementary school children.”

Several mitigating factors were also taken into account.

Yorke has no prior criminal record, she chose to enter a guilty plea, and when addressing the Court she expressed shame for her actions and made no attempt to justify them.

“It weighs on Ms. York that her son is suffering as a consequence,” Justice Slade said. “She’s been isolated and condemned.”

Justice Slade said Belinda's ex-husband Adam Yorke was an unsupportive partner who was verbally abusive and financially irresponsible. He controlled the couple's money by locking Belinda out of their shared banking account and taking her debit card. He said Belinda was struggling to pay bills and afford groceries.

Yorke’s defence lawyer said she lives in “relatively impoverished circumstances.”

In addition to the conditional sentence and probation order, Yorke has to report to a probation officer and she will have to participate in and complete any programs as directed by the officer.

She must apologize to members of the parent advisory council in person or via letter, and to make sure her doctor says she is in a sufficient mental state before addressing anybody in person. She is not allowed to deal with bills in names that aren’t hers, except for immediate family or purpose related to employment. She cannot own any devices that store financial data. And she has to advise any future employers of this conviction if she accepts a position that deals with money.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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