VERNON - A former Sparkling Hill Wellness Resort employee was sentenced to house arrest today for paying herself a ‘second salary’ in forged cheques.
Roberta Milligan, 63, pilfered close to $80,000 from the luxury resort over two years when she was the company’s bookkeeper. She pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and forgery, crimes that earned her a sentence of two years less a day, served in the form of house arrest with strict conditions. She is only permitted to leave home for work, a medical emergency or with the written consent of her supervisor for the first 18 months; after that she is on a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Judge Dennis Morgan, who sentenced Milligan Thursday, March 2 in Vernon Provincial Court, also ordered her to repay the stolen funds to the insurance company, and complete 80 hours of community work which can be for the benefit of low income seniors by assisting them with their tax returns.
During sentencing submissions last month, Crown counsel Shelley Hulko said more than 60 forged cheques were discovered in the investigation, which began in 2014 when the resort’s operations manager noticed something odd in the accounting system.
Milligan was hired by the resort in 2011, and began forging cheques just a few months after starting the job. At the beginning, she forged one cheque every month, but the frequency increased to two and sometimes three cheques monthly. Milligan left her job in 2014 and told Sparkling Hill she was taking a different job somewhere else, however she told the court there was no other job and she left to avoid the temptation of committing further frauds. The forged cheques were discovered shortly after Milligan left and resort staff said they were devastated to learn of her deceit.
After making the cheques out to herself, Milligan changed the payee information in the accounting system to cover her tracks, Hulko said.
Banking records show the fraudulent funds went into Milligan’s personal bank account and were spent on things 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.”
While Hulko identified about $80,000 in fraudulent cheques, Judge Morgan said one of them — a roughly $3,800 cheque to a catering company — may not have been forged and removed that amount from the final restitution order.
Fraud over $5,000 carries a maximum jail term of 14 years and forgery is 10. Hulko asked the judge to consider a three-year jail sentence on the fraud charge, and two years for the forgery.
Because Milligan is not considered a danger to the community, Judge Morgan said it is appropriate for her to serve her sentence in the form of a conditional sentence order, also known as house arrest. He said given the “shame and embarrassment” Milligan has suffered she is unlikely to ever commit a similar crime again. He pointed out she is remorseful and wants to pay the restitution.
Milligan was also charged with two counts of theft over $5,000, two counts of using a forged document, plus an additional count of fraud over $5,000.
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