A Vancouver Island accountant who stole about $43,500 from three Ucluelet businesses has avoided jail but will serve nine months under house arrest on three fraud charges.
Port Alberni resident Don Olson, owner of Rainforest accounting, was sentenced June 6, 2022 by Uklulet Provincial Court after pleading guilty to three counts of defrauding more than $5,000. She was sentenced to three simultaneous suspended sentences of nine months each.
“It is the breach of trust that is at stake in this case. When we have an employee, we trust them with our business, which is ultimately the key to our financial existence,” said Judge Alexander Volf, making his decision.
“You’re going to get a criminal record, and if it costs you your bookkeeping, maybe you should have thought about it before you made 67 fraudulent transactions,” he said. He added that Olson will have to deal with the stigma and negative consequences of living in a small community.
From 2018 to 2020, Olson received 67 additional checks ranging from $500 to $900 at Relic Surf Shop, Surfs Inn, and Ucluelet Restaurant. Over the course of three years, she received about $10,000 from Relic, $20,000 from Surfs Inn and roughly $13,500 from a restaurant, according to statements read by Crown Attorney John Boccabella during the June 6 trial.
Boccabella said the scam caused Relic and Surfs Inn owners Mike and Nicole Little-Bray “tremendous stress” and that the crime was a “serious breach of trust” as Little-Bray hired Olson to be trusted to run the business. operations. Nicole Little-Bray was also being treated for cancer at the time.
“(Olson) took advantage of my trust and abused it by going through cancer and treatment. I was depressed and couldn’t deal with my anxiety. Two days before COVID happened, I found out that she emptied our bank accounts,” Nicole Little-Bray wrote in a Victim Impact Statement dated June 3, 2022. “They put me on Ativan. We have two children who had to go through a gloomy and depressed mother. For several days I couldn’t get out of bed.
“We had nothing in our accounts and then the world closed down. I was practically numb to the realization that someone could do this to another person you’ve known for 12+ years. Imagine someone you trust texting you with kind words when you go for a mastectomy or radiation, while at the same time literally going to the bank and stealing from a family that is already in a traumatic situation. In my books, it’s more than just stealing. Even writing this evokes such intense anxiety and emotion,” wrote Nicole Little-Bray.
Olson’s attorney, Michael Ritzker, stated during the June 6 sentencing that Olson signed the repayment schedule on April 30, 2020, and has since paid the Little-Brays $44,000, which is the total amount of money she stole, plus interest. The restaurant also fully paid off. Ritzker said Olson sold her home in Uklulet so she could pay off a debt.
“At least she tried to do the right thing. Give it some real weight. You lie to me, but if you cross my hand with gold, does that make the lie disappear? No, but there is more weight in gold,” Ritzker said in his address to Judge Wolf.
Olson was allowed to have the final say during the trial.
“I lost everything because of my stupidity. I have very few clients. I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart. I wish it would disappear. It wasn’t intentional to hurt you. My deepest sincere apologies,” Olson said.
Judge Wolf noted that there were extenuating circumstances in the case, one being that Olson pleaded guilty and the other that she returned the money, but he was at risk of saying, “When you return the money, it saves you from prisons.”
“This is the wrong message. We look at the behavior of people after they have been condemned. You tried to make amends for the damage you caused, but I need to balance that with 67 transactions. It was not a one-time mistake, it was 67 transactions,” Judge Wolf said.
As part of her suspended sentence, Olson must inform her clients that she has been cheating on past clients by filling out their books.