Civil servant re-employed after admitting to $16,000 theft

A civil servant who was re-employed by government after admitting stealing money that was meant to pay for people to be housed in residential care homes was sentenced to 12 months in jail Monday.

Loretta Doralyn Grizzel, an executive officer in Department of Children and Family Services in Cayman Brac, pleaded guilty to stealing $16,050 over a two-year period.

Grizzel admitted the offending as soon as she was asked about it, defense attorney Waide DaCosta told Magistrate Valdis Foldats. She was suspended from work but was subsequently asked to come back in the same position, although not handling cash transactions.

The magistrate had asked the circumstances of the re-employment and sentencing was adjourned until a victim impact statement could be obtained.

Grizzel had been responsible for collecting and depositing funds received from individuals who had family members in residential homes managed by the department.

The period of her offending involved 38 irregular transactions between May 2012 and August 2014, when she collected cash but did not deposit it. In September 2014, a treasury accountant became suspicious after reviewing the department’s financial records.

Grizzel was arrested and interviewed in October 2015 and made full admissions. She was suspended from work, but was asked to come back in December 2015. Her first court appearance was in April this year and she pleaded guilty in May.

On Monday, Crown counsel Scott Wainwright read from the statement of the Department of Children and Family Services. It explained Grizzel’s current status, saying she was re-assigned to a non-cash-handling role on Dec. 1. She had been taken back into employment after Deputy Governor Franz Manderson issued a directive titled “Disciplinary proceedings against persons who were placed on required leave,” which stated that individuals placed on leave for disciplinary matters were to be reverted to duty in a different capacity.

Mr. Wainwright suggested this was presumably to avoid having to pay workers, in effect, for staying home.

Mr. DaCosta, who previously described the defendant as being in desperate personal and financial circumstances, said Grizzel should have been a client of the department she worked for, “but they perceived it was a conflict and found no ways to assist her.”

Grizzel had lived almost like a recluse since this had happened and she had suffered from shingles, a stress-related illness, he said. She had cooperated with the investigation even before there was police involvement, he pointed out.

In his reasons for sentence, the magistrate pointed out that this was a breach of trust case.

The magistrate said he found no exceptional circumstances in Grizzel’s case and the amount stolen was not small. “A term of immediate imprisonment is necessary to discourage like-minded individuals who may be inclined to commit similar offenses and to mark publicly the gravity of this type of behavior,” he said.

On the basis of the amount stolen, he said the starting point of his sentence was one year. The degree of trust placed in the defendant, the period of offending, and the defendant’s exploiting of the weaknesses in the accounting system all were aggravating features.

He accepted that the offending was not motivated by greed, but he pointed out that her financial situation had improved after she obtained a debt consolidation loan. Many people must cope with domestic problems and financial pressures, he pointed out. “Turning to crime to lessen one’s burdens cannot be condoned.”

The offending had impacted the public, he continued. “She was a civil servant on the front line representing DCFS in relation to the very valuable services it was providing …,” he said. “Public confidence in our civil service is undermined when civil servants abuse their positions. Any hint of criminal or corrupt activity in the public sector must be met with a stern response to maintain confidence in and respect for the overwhelming majority of civil servants who faithfully discharge their duties with integrity.”

On that basis, he said, he would increase the sentence to two years, but subtracted six months for mitigating factors, including Grizzel’s willingness to repay the stolen money. He further gave full one-third credit for her guilty plea, bringing the total down to one year – “the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offense.”

He granted 18 months for compensation to be paid.