Pension money to pay back theft

An expatriate worker guilty of theft signed an affidavit giving her pension money to her employer to help pay back the $39,759 she stole from him.

Desiree Mancenido, 46, pleaded guilty in Grand Court last Friday to stealing the money in various sums between August 2006 and September 2007.

She also admitted to 10 charges of false accounting, which benefitted another employee without his knowledge. That total, $1,725, is being paid back by the employee.

After hearing the facts and mitigation, Justice Charles Quin sentenced Mancenido to two years imprisonment.

He made an order for her pension money, estimated at around $11,000, to be paid over to the employer. He also ordered the balance of $28,000 to be paid, for full compensation. If it is not paid within 12 months, Mancenido will serve a further six months.

Advised that the stolen money had been sent to Mancenido’s native Philippines, Justice Quin commented ‘If money can go easily to the Philippines, it can easily come back from the Philippines.’

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn said Mancenido began working for a local business in April 2004 as financial controller in overall charge of the day-to-day accounting and bookkeeping. She would have a print-out of the day’s takings and compare that with the actual cash, cheques and credit card receipts received.

She gave her employer the cash and cheques every evening and he counted them himself. It was then Mancenido’s duty to make the bank deposits. It was at this stage the thefts occurred: She would deposit the cheques and keep the cash.

The false accounting charges related to Mancenido’s duties in recording onto the company’s computer programme the hours worked by staff members who were paid an hourly wage. Staff members handed in their time sheets. For one man, she added extra hours, ranging from five up to 24.5 hours per pay period.

Mrs. Gunn said the Crown understood that Mancenido and the man were in some relationship, the exact nature of which was not known. But she emphasised that the man was never aware of the scheme – the amounts of his cheques were seldom the same because his hours were seldom the same.

In the course of the investigation, the man was exonerated. He voluntarily assisted investigators and began making repayments.

Breach of trust

These offences were breaches of trust and had a serious effect on the company, the employer and other employees, Mrs. Gunn said.

Mancenido had been paid well – $49,400 per year salary plus $200 per month housing allowance plus a Christmas bonus of two or three weeks pay, totalling $53,700.

The employer had befriended her. He knew she lived within her means and could not understand why she felt the need to steal from him. However, he was aware she was renovating her home in the Philippines and had four children she was putting through school.

Some of Mancenido’s family members and friends also worked for the company and everyone was upset by what had happened.

Mrs. Gunn cited sentencing authorities on theft by an employee. Cayman’s Court of Appeal has stated that only in exceptional circumstances would such an offender escape immediate imprisonment.

Defence Attorney John Furniss said Mancenido accepted there were no exceptional circumstances in her case. But he asked for credit for her early guilty plea.

He said the only asset she had in this jurisdiction was her pension. There had been discussion as to how the pension money could be put in court funds to be given to Mancenido’s employer. Pension Board personnel had expressed concern that she would want her money after she left Cayman.

Mr. Furniss’ solution was to word an affidavit that Mancenido signed transferring to the Cayman Islands Government all benefits due to her from the pension fund. She accepted that she could not claim her pension at any time in the future.

While this case was coming court, Mancenido had offered to work to try to pay further amounts, but she had not been able to work since her arrest. She had to rely on the generosity of others for food and a place to stay.

Loan defaults

Mr. Furniss advised the court that the bulk of the stolen money had been used to educate Mancenido’s children. There had been loans taken out on her property in the Philippines and she satisfied those from her salary. Since her arrest there have been defaults on the loans.

He said he was obliged to the Crown for not following through on a confiscation request, since ‘there will be nothing left in the Philippines to soften the blow…. It is wrong in principle to try to get something when there is nothing.’

Mrs. Gunn expressed concern that the public might perceive there was no responsibility to repay stolen money if the funds went abroad.

In passing sentence, Justice Quin reviewed principles of sentencing in cases of theft by employee. One was the degree of trust Mancenido’s employer had in her. Another was the period over which the thefts occurred.

As an accountant qualified in the Philippines and with over 20 years experience, Mancenido had been the watchdog of her employer’s company finances. She had been given a senior role and was well paid, the judge pointed out. The way in which she repaid that trust was cynical and dishonest.

It was accepted that she used the stolen money for building a home and educating her children. ‘These are responsibilities that everyone in society has to bear,’ Justice Quin commented.

He said prison was inevitable and so was compensation. ‘I see no good reason why compensation should not be ordered….There can be no doubt as to your liability to repay.’

He said Mancenido would have the opportunity for a fresh start when she returned to the Philippines after serving her sentence.

He made one order for the pension money to be made over to the employer when it becomes available. He made a further order for compensation of $28,000 to be paid within 12 months, failing which Mancenido will serve six months after the two year sentence.

Sentences for false accounting were made to run concurrently.

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