Nova Scotia

Woman sentenced for stealing from employer

A woman convicted of stealing from her former employer was sentenced Wednesday morning to six months of house arrest.

A woman convicted of stealing from her former employer was sentenced Wednesday morning to six months of house arrest.

Kelly Hemeon stole nearly $200,000 from her former employer, Gary Sutherland, who owns Burnside Fleet Services, a maintenance and repair company for large vehicles. She was the company's bookkeeper. She was found guilty in December 2010.

On Wednesday in Dartmouth provincial court, Hemeon was given six months house arrest, followed by an 18-month curfew and one year of probation. She was also ordered to do 100 hours of community service within the next year.

The Hants County woman wrote third-party cheques from the company that she deposited into her own account. The scheme was discovered in 2008 by an outside accounting firm which found irregularities in the company's books.

Hemeon was fired and subsequently charged with fraud of over $5,000.

Sutherland also launched a civil lawsuit against Hemeon. He won in March 2010 and she was ordered to pay more than $206,000 to Burnside Fleet Services, which has not yet been repaid.

After she was fired, Hemeon took Burnside Fleet Services to the Labour Standards board, claiming she was owed back pay and vacation pay. The board agreed and the company had to cut her a cheque for more than $2,000.

Victim impact statements read

The judge did not order restitution or a victim fine surcharge on Wednesday, because Sutherland already won the civil judgment against Hemeon.

"I hope that as time goes on that Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland will be able to move forward and have the retirement they dreamed of,  and to some extent some of those wounds will be healed," said Justice Pam Williams.

Sutherland and his wife read victim impact statements in Wednesday's sentencing, in which they spoke of how Hemeon's fraud almost destroyed Burnside Fleet Services and ruined their retirement plans because they had to put money earmarked for retirement into propping up the company.

"I am not altogether convinced that you're as remorseful as you say you are," Williams told Hemeon.

"No sentence that I can impose today will put the Sutherlands in the position they were in before all of this took place."

Sutherland said that even though it cost him a lot of money to take Hemeon to court, he believes it was the right thing to do.

"I would say on the accounting side and on the civil side, I have spent in excess of $100,000 to prove that she had stolen over $200,000. So it's not a very cost-effective exercise. But, at the same time, I think it's something that you have to do."

Victim disappointed with sentence

Hemeon apologized in court to the Sutherlands.

"I'm just sorry for the hardship I caused and I'll never do anything of this nature again," she said.

Sutherland said he felt Hemeon's sentencing was a slap on the wrist.

"I'm disappointed that there wasn't prison time involved here. March, after all, is Fraud Awareness Month. It didn't send the message that I wanted," he said.

"It's difficult enough for a small business to survive today, let alone someone taking the trust that you place in them and stealing from you."

When asked by the judge if she understood what she put her victims through, she said she did.

"He strikes me as a fair, honest and decent man," said Williams to Hemeon, about Sutherland.

"He is. He's a very good man," agreed Hemeon.