Nfld. & Labrador

House arrest for Corner Brook woman who stole from non-profit group

Nicole McKinnon, who pleaded guilty to 14 counts of fraud, also has to repay $63,000.

Nicole McKinnon also has to repay $63K to the downtown business association

Nicole McKinnon pleaded guilty to multiple charges earlier this month, including multiple counts of theft. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The former director of the Corner Brook Downtown Business Association has been sentenced to a year of house arrest, for writing and cashing cheques to herself from the organization's account, along with other offences. 

Judge Wayne Gorman said Nicole McKinnon will actually serve 11 months because of a 30-day credit for time served. 

McKinnon, 31, pleaded guilty to multiple charges earlier this month, including 14 counts of theft, in addition to fraud, possession of stolen goods and breach of undertaking. 

Her fraud happened from April to November 2018, ending when she confessed to the mayor of Corner Brook and a city councillor what she had done.

She used some of the money she stole to buy cocaine, which was sometimes consumed in the association's office, according to an agreed statement of facts. 

McKinnon also has to pay $63,557 — the amount she stole — in restitution to the Corner Brook Downtown Business Association. In sentencing submissions, both the Crown and the defence both recommended 12 months of house arrest, but they differed on paying restitution. 

The defence said having to pay back a large sum of money would hurt McKinnon's rehabilitation efforts. But the judge sided with the Crown, stating the 31-year-old "has been employed in the past and there is no reason she should not be employed in the future."

The future of the Downtown Business Association is in jeopardy after McKinnon's crimes, according to a victim impact statement entered on behalf of the organization. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

McKinnon is prohibited for five years from being a volunteer "in any capacity that involves having authority over real property, money or valuable security," according to Gorman's decision. 

McKinnon has to stay inside her home at all times, expect for when:

  • She is going to and from work.
  • She is attending counselling (which she has been ordered to do).
  • She, or a member of her family, needs medical treatment.

She is exempted from remaining inside her home every day from 1 to 3 p.m., according to the list of conditions in Gorman's decision. 

The judge declined to impose a probation period for McKinnon, citing the length and conditions included as part of the sentence. 

'I regret it every day'

Even after her initial arrest, McKinnon continued to commit crimes, including a series of six smaller thefts in July and August 2019 from such Corner Brook businesses as Dominion, Lawtons and Walmart. She also breached conditions for her release, such as her curfew, landing her in and out of police custody.

Earlier this month, McKinnon offered a tearful apology in court, calling her crimes "an ignorant mistake."

"I regret it every day," she added. 

Earlier this month, in a Corner Brook courtroom, McKinnon said her crimes were 'an ignorant mistake.' (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

She said the regret and denial she suffered from defrauding her employer led to continued drug use, and the need to steal to support her addiction.

"I fed my sadness with drugs," she said in early September. "I don't want to do that anymore."

But in his decision, the judge said while McKinnon referenced her cocaine addiction in court, "there was no evidence presented … explaining the extent of any addiction."

In a victim impact statement, a representative of the Corner Brook Downtown Business Association said McKinnon's crimes meant the group had to suspend its operations indefinitely and that its future is in jeopardy.

McKinnon has pleaded not guilty to attempting to defraud another volunteer board member of money, and using that member's credit card.

She has a trial date set for late October to deal with those charges.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Stephanie Kinsella and Lindsay Bird