Former Sparkling Hill bookkeeper could go to jail for 'second salary' paid in fraudulent cheques - InfoNews

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Former Sparkling Hill bookkeeper could go to jail for 'second salary' paid in fraudulent cheques

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February 09, 2017 - 6:30 PM


VERNON - A former bookkeeper at Sparkling Hill Wellness Resort in Vernon is facing potential jail time after defrauding the company of more than $80,000 in phoney cheques.

Roberta Milligan, born in 1954, has pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and forgery after pilfering funds from the resort over a period of about two years, court heard during a sentencing hearing Monday, Feb. 6 in Vernon Provincial Court.

Milligan, who does not have a lawyer and is representing herself in court, was hired as the resort’s accounting manager in October of 2011, Crown counsel Shelley Hulko said. Milligan left in January of 2014 to take another job. It was while checking in to the accounting system shortly after Milligan's departure that the resort's operations manager discovered cheques that were made out to Milligan, but registered to a different name in the computer system.

“That obviously raised alarm bells,” Hulko said.

It was soon discovered that the CEO’s signature, which is typically required on all cheques, had been forged.

In total, investigators uncovered 64 forged cheques adding up to roughly $81,000 over the two-year period. Some of the early cheques were around $400 to $450, and as time went on, more cheques were forged and cashed regularly throughout the year, Hulko said. 

“Effectively, Ms. Milligan was paying herself a second salary,” Hulko said.

Banking records show the fraudulent funds were spent on day-to-day expenses like restaurants, clothing, gas and food.

“Her only motivation that has been discerned is greed,” Hulko said. “Ms. Milligan was looking to have more money than she was able to earn.”

After printing the phoney cheques, Milligan would go back into the computer system and doctor the payee information to cover her tracks. 

The resort was covered by insurance, Hulko said, but for the company, it wasn’t just about the money.

“The impact on the victims at Sparkling Hill was significant. It’s a tight-knit group,” Hulko said, adding staff and the CEO were devastated to learn of Milligan's deceit.

Milligan is now on a re-payment schedule with the insurance company, although the last few cheques have bounced due to insufficient funds.

Fraud over $5,000 carries a maximum jail term of 14 years, while forgery carries up to ten years. The Crown has asked Judge Dennis Morgan to consider imposing a three-year jail sentence for the fraud charge, and two years on the count of forgery.

Due to insufficient time, the sentence hearing was adjourned until Feb. 23. On that day, Milligan is expected to make her own submissions to the judge prior to sentencing.

Before the hearing got underway on Monday, Judge Morgan made note of the fact that Milligan has no lawyer, and took time to remind her of the possibility she might be going to jail. He was prepared to stand the hearing down if she was unaware of the severity of her situation.

“I’d rather just go with God and the truth,” Milligan said.

— This story was updated at 9:04 p.m., Feb. 9, 2016 to clarify cheque amounts. 

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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