Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo Reporter
CHETWYND – The unsettling arm of justice brought down a judgment on a crime that cost the community of Chetwynd a valuable resource for women and children who are victims of abuse.
Former Chetwynd resident, Lonnie D. Llewellyn, who defrauded the Chetwynd Women’s Resource Society of $32,240 by changing her paychecks to read $1,600 instead of $600 between June 2010 and May 2011, was sentenced in a Vancouver provincial court last Thursday, April 11..
As a result of the fraud, the organization, which provided women and children with practical assistance in areas of education, advocacy, intervention, prevention and counseling while offering information on their rights in relation to social issues such as abuse, was forced to close its doors in Jan. 2012.
Llewellyn received no jail time for the offence, which she plead guilty to on Feb. 7.
Instead, she was given an eight-month conditional sentence in which she is to serve 20 hours of community service, keep the peace and be in good behaviour, appear before a court when needed, report to a court appointed supervisor and be prohibited from leaving the province.
For the first four months of her sentence, Llewellyn is not to be found outside her home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for medical emergencies or in the case of written permission from her supervisor.
Llewellyn currently resides in Vancouver. At this time is not known whether the community service hours will be served in the lower mainland or here in Chetwynd, where the offence took place.
Calls made by the Echo to confirm these details of the sentence with the office of defense lawyer Brian Coleman, who represented Llewellyn in court, were not returned at press time.
The sentence has some in the community wondering whether this will be sufficient punishment to prevent such a crime from reoccurring.
“The justice system never ceases to amaze and puzzle me,” said Children Who Witness Abuse counsellor Lindsey Sprague from her office at the South Peace Resource Society’s Chetwynd Safehome/Outreach program.
The Chetwynd Women’s Resource Centre (CWRC) hired Sprague after Llewellyn had left.
“The question does the punishment fit the crime in this case seems more obscure than clear. Can a perpetrator truly understand the consequences of their actions and how many lives have been affected by a theft such as this one? Is the sentence adequate in creating enough of a deterrent that she will not reoffend for a third time? The question of retribution comes into play.”
The “third time” is a reference to a similar act of fraud Llewellyn committed against the Peace Christian School in 2009.
Llwellyn was hired in April 2010 as Executive Director of the CWRC, and was tasked a month later with completing an audit of the society’s books for the organizations funding provider, the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
A year later, the audit was not completed.
It was then that Sprague was called in to finish of the job Llwellyn had failed to do.
She, along with board members and CWRC counsellors discovered missing funds in September 2011 through a series of unaccounted for withdrawals from the resource society’s coffers.
She advised the rest of the society’s board of trustees immediately and continued the audit, later learning Llewellyn had taken petty cash in addition to a scheme in which she would make her own paychecks out, have them signed by two board members with signing authority and then change the amount to read more than double what she was owed.
According to court documents provided to the Echo in February, Sprague, who had been friends with Llewellyn, called her after she made the discovery.
Llewellyn began to cry and confessed that she had taken the money, that she did not keep track of how much was actually taken and that it was a compulsion she wanted to seek therapy for.
Original estimates pegged the loss at $16,000, but were later found to be in excess of $30,000.
When board members threatened legal action, Llewellyn fled to Vancouver, taking with her all the books, a laptop computer and other office supplies.
The RCMP investigation revealed Llewellyn often had excuses for not having updates for the regularly scheduled board meetings on the audit she was supposed to be performing, saying she had left them at home. Other times, she produced a spreadsheet that provided little information.
This case was the second time Llewellyn had taken money from a non-profit organization in Chetwynd.
The RCMP investigated a case in November. 2009, illuminating the fact that she had defrauded the Peace Christian School of over $40,000. School Board trustees entered into a civil agreement with Llewellyn, after which the money was repaid.
It is unclear, due to the fact that no criminal charges were laid in this case, whether or not this fraud was considered in the Llewellyn’s sentencing.
“I suppose the only comfort through this process is that she did take responsibility,” Sprague said. “She did plead guilty and didn’t “steal” any more tax payer money through a needless trial.”