Woman jailed; Church pays for theft

Christina Evangelista was sentenced last week to three months imprisonment for stealing $2,475 from her employer.

Defence Attorney Shaun McCann said Evangelista, who is from the Philippines, acknowledged that she had brought great shame to herself and to the Filipino community. But because she was recognised as a hard-working mother of a sick son, her church had taken regular collections for her over Christmas.

As a result, there was $2,500 to assist her in paying the money back.

After hearing what she described as powerful mitigation, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said the sentence for this breach of trust theft would ordinarily be 12 months, but she concluded the shorter sentence could be imposed.

Mr. McCann represented Evangelista pro bono at the request of Mr. Arturo Ursua, who serves as informal consul of the Philippines in Cayman. He in turn was acting at the request of the Labour Attaché of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.

Evangelista, 28, admitted taking $50 or $75 twice a week from the cash register at the restaurant where she worked. The thefts occurred between December 2007 and April 2008.

Crown Counsel Alister Cumming advised that the restaurant manager said Evangelista approached her to confess that she and two other employees had been stealing from the till.

Reading from the court file, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said the employees had discovered poor accounting practices that could be exploited and they did so in a way to enrich themselves.

Mr. McCann pointed out that Evangelista not only gave a statement totally voluntarily but also provided information about the other employees, who have left the jurisdiction.

He explained that she had arrived in Cayman in 2005 and worked as a kitchen helper. She returned to the Philippines in 2006 to give birth to a son. She then returned to her job in Cayman and in 2007 was promoted to the dining section.

Since losing her job last May, Evangelista had been living with her husband’s cousin and the Filipino community had been helping her.

Mr. McCann said she took the money because her infant son had developed a medical condition known as Primar Complex, an infection due to tubercular bacteria. The baby required two months of intensive treatment to kill the bacteria and then another four months of continued treatment. Evangelista said she stole the money to finance this treatment.

The attorney handed up a document he had received through Mr. Ursua as to the baby’s treatment. The magistrate asked if the child were all right and Evangelista nodded her head.

Mr. McCann said he had already advised his client that she faced imprisonment, but he hoped the court would treat this offence as the lowest level of breach of trust.

The magistrate adjourned until after lunch to consider her sentence. When court resumed she listed the various factors to be taken into account in breach of trust cases: the degree of trust her employer had in her; her position in the company; the effect of the theft on the employer, other staff and the public; the use to which the money was put; the effect of the theft on the defendant herself.

She said Evangelista was not an employee of high rank, but she had been put in a position where she was entrusted with receiving cash for goods on behalf of the owner.

The magistrate noted that there was a significant disparity between inventory and revenue, but the owner was unable to discover the thefts until Evangelista confessed. Her information regarding other employees could have led to their conviction.

For Evangelista personally, conviction meant loss of good name, loss of right to remain and work here – which, in light of her family circumstances, would have grave impact. Finally, there was the use of the money – medical expenses for her infant son.

The magistrate also considered Evangelista’s guilty plea, voluntary statement and offer of restitution on her behalf.

Against those factors, she had to consider the prevalence of employee theft in this jurisdiction. If every employee filched $50 to $75, employers would be bankrupted, she said.

‘I want people to remember – your employer is not responsible for your difficulty.’ She said no one was entitled to steal because a child was ill or a mortgage payment was due or there was some other debt.

If restitution is not paid, Evangelista is to serve a further six months in default. In addition, she is to pay $250 in costs or serve another 30 days.