Former Stratford rotary club official jailed for stealing nearly $18K from club

The former co-president of the Rotary Club of Stratford has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for stealing nearly $18,000 from the club over a two year period. 

49-year-old James Joseph Pineau forged signatures, wrote cheques to himself

49-year-old James Joseph Pineau walks out of Charlottetown provincial court Wednesday, after being sentenced to 90 days in jail for stealing from the Stratford rotary club. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The former co-president of the Rotary Club of Stratford has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for stealing nearly $18,000 from the charitable organization over a two year period. 

49-year-old James Joseph Pineau pleaded guilty to the theft in March. Months earlier other executive members noticed the missing funds and called RCMP. 

According to the agreed statement of facts read in provincial court Wednesday, when questioned by police, Pineau admitted to writing 57 cheques to himself.

He also admitted to forging the signatures of other executive members who had signing authority along with him, to make it look like all cheques had the required two signatures. 

Emile Gallant, the current president of Stratford's rotary club, says the club has taken steps to ensure no more money is stolen from the charitable organization. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"It was hard on our club, very hard. It was probably close to 80 per cent of the money we had in the bank," said Emile Gallant, the club's current president. "These are funds we raise by doing activities, and a lot of volunteer work by our members."

The court heard Wednesday that Gallant's name had been forged by Pineau 24 times over two years.  

"Sometimes you have trust in a person, and you don't question as much as you should. We've learned a lesson on that," said Gallant. 

Gallant said the club was able to recoup the stolen funds through insurance. 

'Abused his position'

He said the club has also put new measures in place to ensure something like this doesn't happen again. 

"All cheques are made at our meetings now, and we get financial reports every two months — direct reports from the Credit Union where we have our chequing account.… We've made sure everything's in place now," said Gallant.

In delivering her sentence Wednesday, Judge Nancy Orr said Pineau "abused his position [as co-president] and took advantage of it."

When asked why his client stole the money and how he spent it, defence lawyer Thane MacEachern said neither answer is completely clear to Pineau. 

MacEachern said Pineau has had mental-health issues and hasn't always been "mindful of the things you should be paying attention to day-to-day."

He said Pineau is now getting treatment and is "very remorseful for his actions."

Jail time on weekends 

While he will have to spend 90 days in jail, Judge Orr ruled Pineau can serve his time on weekends. 

She said her hope is that Pineau — who is currently unemployed — will be able to find a job and start paying back the money he stole from the rotary club.

Pineau was ordered to eventually pay full restitution as part of his sentence. 

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