Housekeeper admits stealing cheques

A housekeeper has been sentenced to nine months in prison for stealing almost $31,000 in cheques from her employer.

Loretta Mae Ebanks, 26, admitted stealing the cheques while working as a housekeeper for Cobalt Coast Resort.

Ebanks’ thefts totalled $30,925.75 and were committed between August and November 2004.

Mrs. Justice Priya Levers ordered no compensation.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn said Ebanks had access to many parts of the premises and stole cheques belonging to the resort.

The owner/manager was the only signatory on the account. He had left the island on business and for a holiday. When he returned, he checked his bank statements and found large sums of money withdrawn.

The same day he reported the matter to the bank, Ebanks presented a cheque for $9,500, which she attempted to cash. She was arrested and still had two cheques.

Mrs. Gunn said Ebanks also had $3,500 in cash and four receipts for jewellery with a total value of $1,191. Her home was searched and other items were recovered. Jewellery included a wrist watch, bracelets, pendants and earrings.

Ebanks said she needed the money to feed her children.

Mrs. Gunn said some of the questions to be looked at involved the quality and degree of trust placed in the employee, the way the money was used, the effect on the victim and on public confidence.

Defence Attorney John Furniss said breach of trust criteria were designed for people in control of someone else’s money.

In addition to buying the jewellery, Ebanks also repaired the roof of her parents’ house after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

Mrs. Justice Levers asked what the thefts had to do with the hurricane. Ebanks had cashed the first cheque in August. ‘You can’t blame Ivan. We all went through that,’ she said.

Mr. Furniss said Ebanks had been earning between $50 and $100 for three days work per week. She had pay slips showing that she took home $54.28 and $40.93 after deductions. Her boyfriend was not supporting the children.

After a year and a half of being unemployed, she had found a job with take home pay of $852 per month. She could pay back the outstanding $26,000 at a rate of $500 per month, Mr. Furniss suggested.

The judge on Friday said Ebanks’ pattern of behaviour was a breach of trust. She also noted a 2003 conviction for shoplifting, for which Ebanks had received a community service order.

She asked what Mr. Furniss would say about sentencing. He acknowledged that the Court of Appeal did not consider having young children an exceptional circumstance that would keep an offender out of prison.

He said if Ebanks went to prison there was no way her employer would get his money back because she would lose her job and it would be another year before she got another because people don’t forget when someone is incarcerated.

The judge said she did not like sending young people like Ebanks to prison, but there was nothing in the case that amounted to exceptional circumstance.

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