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Vincentian woman sentenced to four years in prison in Canada for theft

Vincentian woman sentenced to four years in prison in Canada for theft

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Yolande Parsons Knight, the former financial director of a charity in Canada that provides housing and support for people who are developmentally challenged, was sentenced on November 14 to four years in prison for stealing more than $900,000 from the organization’s coffers.{{more}}

Yolande Parsons Knight, 50, originally from St Vincent and the Grenadines, was also ordered to pay $200,000 restitution for what Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Beaudoin described as a “glaring breach of trust . . . and distorted sense of entitlement and greed.”

Knight had pleaded guilty to the theft from Total Communications Environment (TCE) over a seven-year period while she controlled the charity’s finances.

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, René St Fort, was running for president.

Knight has not heard from St Fort since her arrest five years ago and claimed he began their relationship with the express intention of getting money from her.

Knight has no previous convictions and the judge said on November 14 that he was convinced of her remorse and confident she would not re-offend.

But Knight’s victim was “not some faceless institution” capable of recouping its losses, he said, but a community of vulnerable people, some of whom she had befriended.

What was difficult to understand, added the judge, was that Knight had none of the usual underlying reasons, such as drug, alcohol or gambling addiction, to steal so much for so long.

In the years she was stealing from TCE, Knight’s monthly “take” ranged from a minimum $663 a month to $40,500 a month.

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

“Ms Knight had us all fooled,” TCE executive director Karen Belyea told Knight’s sentencing hearing. “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, Belyea said.

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, Belyea added.

Christine Wilson, a TCE founder and board member, said revelations about Knight’s systematic thefts 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.”

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

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