Bank employee jailed for theft

The defendant had befriended the 79-year-old victim

A Butterfield Bank employee was sentenced Monday to 10 months immediate imprisonment after admitting that she stole $7,775 by using a debit card issued in the name of a 79-year-old bank client. 

Magistrate Valdis Foldats said the offenses committed by Suzette Almanza, 27, were a breach of the trust of her employer and the trust the bank’s customer had in her. 

Almanza had befriended the victim, who was described as an elderly and vulnerable woman, by assisting her with various banking procedures. Alamanza had worked as a relief supervisor. 

In February, Almanza made a false document by applying for a debit card in the woman’s name. 

Between March 1 and May 23, she withdrew cash 25 times from the woman’s bank account via the ATM with the unauthorized debit card.  

Crown counsel Kala Ball said the victim’s son saw the ATM withdrawals on a bank statement, but he knew his mother did not have an ATM card, so he reported the matter to the bank. An internal investigation showed Almanza making three of the withdrawals on closed circuit television footage.  

Almanza pleaded guilty in August to both theft and making a document without authority. 

Defense attorney Guy Dillaway-Parry conceded that the offenses involved a breach of trust, but he pointed out that the amount stolen was relatively small and more than half had already been repaid. 

Almanza immediately admitted what she had done and entered an early guilty plea, the attorney pointed out; she was deeply remorseful and the effect on her had been devastating. Mr. Dillaway-Parry urged the court to say that the cumulative effect of all the mitigating circumstances could justify a suspended sentence and community service. 

Ms Ball said the degree of trust in Almanza was high. She pointed out that the Court of Appeal had upheld a sentence of 18 months for an offense in which an elderly and vulnerable victim had been exploited. 

The magistrate found no special mitigating features. There had been no great strain arising from excessive responsibility, no significant delay in bringing prosection, no assistance to police. 

He said a sentence with a starting point of 15 months was necessary to reflect the “dual nature of the breach of trust.” The mitigating features were not exceptional, but they did serve to reduce the sentence. 

Immediate imprisonment was necessary to protect the public from like-minded individuals and mark publicly the gravity of the offense, the magistrate concluded. 

However, he gave full credit for the guilty plea. He explained that even if the outcome had been inevitable, Almanza could have gone to trial and that would have wasted time, energy and expense. The discount he gave was one-third, which reduced 15 months to 10.  

Almanza had repaid $4,891.10, leaving a balance of $2,833.90. Arguments about any compensation order are scheduled for Jan. 6, 2014.  

Immediate imprisonment was necessary to protect the public from like-minded individuals and mark publicly the gravity of the offense, the magistrate concluded.