Friday, October 23, 2020

Accountant stole $660,000 from prestigious Sudbury law firm

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A former accountant at Weaver Simmons – a large, prestigious law firm in Sudbury – was teary-eyed Wednesday as she was sentenced for stealing and laundering more than $660,000 from the firm over a 32-month period.

Tammy Rivers, 43, received a six-month jail sentence, a 17-month conditional sentence, and an 18-month probation order.

She took the money, the court was told, to feed a gambling habit.

“I’m to impose a sentence that facilitates sentencing in proportion to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender, and generates responsibility for fraud in society,” Ontario Court Justice Romuald Kwolek said during the videoconference sentencing at the Sudbury Courthouse.

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Assistant Crown attorney Sheila Seguin of North Bay and defence lawyer Daniel Baker of Callander were also involved in the hearing.

“I feel the sentence is appropriate and can assist the offender’s rehabilitation and the hope she doesn’t come back to court again.”

Rivers, 43, had pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of fraud over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime.

A sentencing hearing followed, with Kwolek reserving his decision.

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He read highlights from the 12-page document at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.

Rivers, who appeared in court alone, will begin serving her jail sentence Friday. She was also issued a DNA order and a stand-alone restitution order for $10,000.

The Crown had sought a nine-month jail sentence followed by a conditional sentence.

Kwolek said aggravating factors in the case included:

– an employee who abused her position of trust in stealing from her employer;

– the size of the fraud – over $660,000;

– the fact that the fraud was committed over a 32-month period;

– the theft involved four different bank accounts, e-transfers and cheques; and

– there has been no restitution by Rivers to date of which he is aware.

“There was some degree of planning,” commented the judge.

Mitigating factors, noted the judge, included the fact that Rivers entered pleas of guilty sparing a lengthy and expensive trial, appeared to show genuine remorse for what she did, has no prior record, admitted she had stolen the money when the fraud was discovered a few years ago, and co-operated with Greater Sudbury Police.

The conditional sentence order consists of 10 months of house arrest followed by seven months with a curfew. It includes conditions such as no alcohol or illegal drugs, no weapons, that Rivers stay away from Weaver Simmons, and that she take recommended assessment, counselling and programs for issues such as substance abuse, mental health and gambling addiction.

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The 18-month probation order includes a condition that Rivers continue counselling, if deemed necessary, and complete 80 hours of community service work.

“It’s not simply an offence against a law firm,” said Kwolek. “It’s an offence against the community.”

Kwolek said he is not aware of any legal action being taken by Weaver Simmons to try and recover the stolen money, and noted that since Rivers has a gambling addiction, the stolen money is gone.

Still, in issuing the stand-alone restitution order, Kwolek told Rivers it was important she tries to repay her former employer something.

“I want it to be a significant amount and would expect it can be repaid over time,” he said. “It’s a realistic goal. I think it’s going to take a long time to do that.”

Weaver Simmons did not provide the court with a victim impact statement. It is not known if the law firm has launched a civil suit against Rivers.

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