A judge has granted a conditional discharge to a Eureka, Pictou County, woman who stole more than $25,000 from the special-care home where she worked as an administrator earning $99,000 annually.
Emily Anne MacIntosh pleaded guilty to stealing over $5,000 from Valley View Villa between June 2013 and November 2016. The thefts — totalling $27,676 in the form of unauthorized cheques made out to MacIntosh and members of her family — were discovered when the municipally owned facility conducted a review of the Villa’s operations to identify the cause of what had become annual financial deficits.
“When confronted, Ms. MacIntosh rationalised these illegal withdrawals as compensation for unpaid overtime and lost vacation time,” Pictou provincial court Judge Del Atwood said in a written decision released Thursday.
MacIntosh, 47, told Mounties “she had gone through a divorce and taken on an unmanageable level of indebtedness,” Atwood said.
“She had ended up using the stolen money to cover the purchases of a trailer for $27,000 and of some small appliances at Costco.”
The head of the home’s board of directors gave the court a victim impact statement. “It describes irreparable damage done to the reputation of the facility, the negative effect on staff morale, and the impact on the delivery of services to a vulnerable population, all the result of the actions of Ms. MacIntosh,” Atwood said.
MacIntosh — who was dismissed from her job in 2016 — had worked for the Villa since she was a teen. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2011.
Her crime “involved an enhanced degree of premeditation and calculation, as it involved Ms. MacIntosh drawing a succession of cheques intended to camouflage her thefts,” said the judge.
“The offence had an adverse effect on the reputation of the facility and on staff morale. It required the diversion of public funds to make up the loss. It impaired the ability of the facility to deliver services to a vulnerable population.”
Her lawyer tried to argue the offence “is rendered somehow less serious as ‘there is no evidence of the government going insolvent’ or as ‘nobody missed out on lunch,’ ” Atwood said. “In my view, this is a fallacy of false simplicity.”
The judge considered the long-term duration of the theft an aggravating factor.
“Particularly aggravating is that Ms. MacIntosh took advantage of the high level of regard in which she was held at the Villa — built up over years of dutiful employment prior to her decision to take advantage of her position — to perpetrate a theft against an institution that had promoted her to an elevated position of trust,” Atwood said.
“These factors satisfy me that this was a very serious offence for which Ms. MacIntosh bears a high level of moral culpability.”
The Crown was looking for a suspended sentence with probation. MacIntosh’s lawyer was pushing for a conditional discharge.
“The parties agree that there should be a restitution order in the amount of $27,376.08, which Ms. MacIntosh is able to pay immediately,” the judge said.
Atwood said it’s unlikely MacIntosh will reoffend. “Her history prior to 2013 was of a person committed to a high level of public service; this makes it easier to characterise her actions between 2013-2016 as aberrations.”
MacIntosh, who trained as a nurse, temporarily lost her professional credentials as a result of a decision by the registered nursing licensing body, the judge said.
“This will limit substantially Ms. MacIntosh’s employment prospects, possibly for a long time to come, particularly in her chosen field of the health professions. This makes Ms. MacIntosh unlike other persons convicted of theft.”
The Crown’s recommendation for a suspended sentence is “eminently reasonable,” Atwood said.
“This is a close call. The court is dealing with a large, breach-of-trust theft. However, I believe that a case has been made out for a discharge.”
Losing her nursing credentials “may have a significant and long-term effect on her ability to obtain employment in her chosen field,” Atwood said.
“The entering of a conviction could make her professional rehabilitation very much harder.”
A discharge might help restore those credentials, he said, “lessening her employment and financial insecurity.”
Atwood issued a 24-month probation order directing MacIntosh to report to the local Community Corrections office within two days. She must also stay in Nova Scotia unless her probation officer gives her permission to leave; perform 120 hours of community service; attended mental health assessment and counselling; inform her probation officer within in 24 hours if she accepts a volunteer gig or a paid position that requires her to handle money or valuables; and pay back the money she stole.