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Vincentian woman to be sentenced in Canada for theft of over $900,000

Vincentian woman to be sentenced in Canada for theft of over $900,000


Fri, Nov 7, 2014

The former finance director of a charity providing housing and support for developmentally handicapped adults stole Cdn $900,000 from the charity’s coffers and in doing so, deprived some of society’s most defenceless people of crucial services, a court in Ottawa, Canada heard on October 10, 2014.{{more}}

Yolande Knight, 50, has pleaded guilty to stealing the money from Total Communications Environment (TCE) over a seven-year period while she controlled the charity’s finances.

The woman, formerly known as Yolande Parsons, is originally from Belmont, St Vincent and the Grenadines. She faces between three and five years in penitentiary.

Knight joined TCE in 1996 and became its finance director three years later.

“Ms Knight had us all fooled,” TCE executive director Karen Belyea told the court. “She was a trusted member of the inner circle.”

Knight provided regular financial statements to TCE’s board of directors and other senior managers, knowing that much of the information was fraudulent, said Belyea.

TCE had to make cuts to the services it provides its residents, not knowing that Knight was siphoning money from the taxpayer-funded charity to support her own lavish lifestyle, added Belyea.

“It’s still unbelievable to me that she sat silently and let us make some difficult decisions around programming and reduction of resources because of the so-called ‘cost pressures’ she had identified when, in fact, they were related to her own spending and greed,” she said.

Christine Wilson, a TCE founder and board member, said revelations about Knight’s systematic thefts has been devastating for staff and had damaged the charity’s ability to raise money in the community.

“TCE strived to maintain the high standard of care and experiences for our residents,” she added, “balancing this with the need to decrease spending, while Ms Knight was living a life of luxury at their expense.”

According to evidence heard at a previous hearing, Knight secretly spent more than $1 million on the company credit card she used for her fraud, but prosecutors gave her the benefit of the doubt that some might have been legitimate business expenses.

Charity executives did not know the credit card was in use.

Knight was able to hide the fact that she was making fraudulent entries into the charity’s financial ledger to pay off the monthly card debts that often ran into the tens of thousands of dollars.

When an audit revealed the irregularities that led Knight’s arrest in late 2009, she was earning more than $90,000 a year.

According to a statement of facts agreed to by both prosecution and defence, Knight sent more than $60,000 of TCE’s money to Haiti, where her boyfriend, Rene St Fort, was running for president.

She sent the money in small increments to avoid raising suspicion of Canadian Border Services officials.

The list of Knight’s fraudulent credit card l Continued from Page 6

expenses includes: $77,944 for home furnishings and new appliances; $152,204 for Amway products; $68,937 for groceries; $50,742 for gas and car repairs; $10,885 for spa treatments; $19,839 for hairdressing; $77,271 for Internet and telecom; $12,175 for theatre and shows; $36,088 for foreign travel and shopping; $38,844 for domestic travel; $33,147 at restaurants; $3,871 at LCBO/Beer Store.

At the height of her spending in 2007, Knight was making monthly purchases of $36,000 that coincided with her buying a $530,000 house.

According to the evidence, she spent most of the money during that period on furniture, appliances and pieces of art for her new home.

Knight also used her corporate credit card to buy airline tickets for family and friends and laptop computers and radios for St Fort in Haiti.

In a barely audible voice, Knight told Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Beaudoin Friday that she realized her stealing had hurt many people, including her own family, and said she was “deeply sorry.”

Knight’s house was seized and sold by bankers, leaving $127,000 of the proceeds for TCE after the bank took its share.

Crown prosecutor John Semenoff asked Beaudoin to hand Knight a five-year sentence plus an order to pay $550,000 restitution.

Defence lawyer Mark Ertel said three years was more appropriate for an offender such as Knight, who has no criminal record and is unlikely to re-offend.

Beaudoin will sentence Knight later this month.(from The Ottawa Citizen)