Ritz employee steals, gets jail

Denise Myles-Chambers was sentenced on 1 August to two and a half years imprisonment for thefts from the Ritz-Carlton between October 2006 and March 2007.

A previous matter added six months for a total of three years. Failure to pay a confiscation order in the new matter will result in a further six months.

In passing sentence for stealing $181,586 from Ritz-Carlton, Justice Alexander Henderson noted it was Chambers’ third conviction for theft and the second for theft from an employer.

In July 2005, she received a term of six months imprisonment, but it was suspended. She was ordered to pay $16,498 compensation or serve six months imprisonment. Of that amount, she paid back $5,000.

During the hearing for the most recent offences, Justice Henderson first dealt with the 2005 conviction. He said her failure to pay full compensation meant she must serve the six months.

‘My sentence must be consecutive to that six month term,’ the judge explained.

Chambers, 38, pleaded guilty in December to 11 charges of theft involving a total of $177,600 from the Ritz-Carlton, where she worked as an accounts payable clerk. She also admitted obtaining services by deception – 13 nights accommodation at a resort. The value was $3,986, for a total theft of $181,586.

She also admitted 11 charges of procuring the execution of a document by false pretences. These charges relate to the process by which Chambers got cheques cashed that were drawn on Ritz-Carlton accounts.

One of her duties with the company had been to write cheques for external accounts and submit them for signatures, Senior Crown Counsel Gail Johnson explained.

After Chambers entered her pleas, the Crown offered no evidence against a co-accused. Chambers said the other person did not know what she was doing.

Sentencing was delayed from December in part because of her health issues and because the Crown was pursuing an order for confiscation of Chambers’ assets.

Defence Attorney Ben Tonner elaborated on her health issues, but did not suggest they amounted to a reason she should not be incarcerated. ‘I simply ask you to bear in mind you might feel it would make prison slightly harder for her,’ he told the judge.

He said the money stolen from the Ritz-Carlton was used for a variety of purposes — to pay debts and medical expenses, but the lion’s share was spent on gifts for friends, purchases of jewellery and other items.

He urged the court to give credit for her guilty plea and the fact that she signed a document authorising the release of restrained funds.

Justice Henderson explored two points before passing sentence.

He said a usual consideration when an employee has breached an employer’s trust is that the offender will not be able to find similar employment in the future. But this was the third case he had seen of theft in a position of trust by someone convicted and going out and getting another job in a position of trust.

Mr. Tonner agreed it made mitigation difficult.

Ms Johnson suggested the second job is usually obtained while the first matter is pending, so technically there would be no conviction.

The judge’s second concern was the Crown’s request for confiscation rather than compensation to the company that lost the money.

Mr. Tonner said Chambers had been in possession of $176,000 but was unable to show how she spent a certain amount. Some $26,000 had been recovered, but $76,000 was unaccounted for. ‘The Crown says since she can’t account for it, she still has it,’ the attorney summarised.

Ms Johnson explained that the law does not allow the Crown to ask for compensation without identifying the offender’s assets that would be used to pay back the stolen money.

In this case, the Crown was asking for a confiscation order in the sum of $102,637.19. In lieu of payment, Chambers would have to serve another six months, which is the maximum allowed by law.

Justice Henderson observed that six months is not a very strong incentive to repay a large sum.

He directed that the confiscation amount be paid within one year.

The judge said the sentence for the Ritz-Carlton thefts would have been three and a half years, but he gave her a discount because of the guilty pleas.