PENTICTON - A former cash-strapped customer service representative for a Keremeos bank will have to pay back $25,000 she fraudulently took from customers' accounts, Judge Gregory Koturbash ruled in Penticton provincial court today, April 27.
Elizabeth Natalie Elgie was working at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Keremeos in 2011 when her supervisor discovered unexplained shortages in her till. When Elgie was unable to explain the discrepancies, an investigation was launched by the bank, said Crown Prosecutor Jim Bird.
The bank discovered instances of withdrawals from customers' accounts without any accompanying paperwork. A review of video surveillance coordinated with transaction entry information revealed Elgie making some of those withdrawals when no clients were nearby. Three instances were discovered of withdrawals from accounts where clients hadn’t filled out slips.
The fraudulent withdrawals occurred over roughly a year, from May 3, 2010, to June 8, 2011. Eight complainants had funds withdrawn without their knowledge, with one suffering from multiple withdrawals.
Elgie confessed on June 8, 2011, to the incidents in a voluntary statement, and the CIBC investigation was turned over to the RCMP, Bird said.
Crown sought a six-month conditional sentence, along with a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. as well as 50 hours community service work and along with repayment of $25,000 to the bank.
Bird noted Elgie had no previous criminal record, expressed remorse and fully cooperated after providing an early confession.
“This would have been a time-consuming and complicated trial,” Bird said.
Bird also noted Elgie was a low risk to reoffend, saying her future employment prospects in a field where she would be trusted with large sums of money were likely non-existent. He said the sentence would send a message to others in a similar position who might be tempted to do the same.
Defence lawyer Ryu Okayama said a psychiatric report described Elgie as having undergone "significant stress” for some time as the result of family financial difficulties, adding she suffered from clinical depression.
He argued the family’s low annual income would make payback of the $25,000 nearly impossible, asking the court to consider the present and future ability of Elgi to repay the money.
Judge Koturbash asked Elgie where the money went, to which she answered: “To pay off debts. Just to live, day by day.”
Koturbash also noted Elgie’s breach of trust against her employer and the fact that she took $25,000, saying there was a higher level of culpability in breaching that trust. The fact the fraud continued for almost a year indicated "planning and some level of sophistication,” he said.
Koturbash further expressed a need to send a message to the community that one couldn’t just walk away from a debt like Elgie’s, just because of present circumstances. He said there was future potential to pay off the debt through an inheritance or better employment circumstances.
Koturbash sentenced Elgie to a six-month conditional sentence of house arrest, where any movement outside her home must be at the discretion of her conditional sentence officer. Elgie will also be subject to 18 months probation and pay back her employer.
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