Convicted fraudster Anita Dunkers has had her 2014 five year imprisonment and restitution sentence affirmed by the BC Court of Appeal. Ms. Dunkers was central to the fraud that brought down the Capital Families Association (“CFA”), a society and registered charity, leaving a gap in the social services and family assistance world in the Western Communities on Vancouver Island.
Ms. Dunkers was the CFA’s bookkeeper, with day to day control over its finances. From January 2008 to January 2010, she made 270 cheques payable to herself from the CFA’s operating account. She altered accounting records to make it appear cheques had been issued to employees or contractors. This fraud was discovered by the CFA’s new bookkeeper, who replaced after Ms. Dunkers quit in early 2010. As a result of the fraud, CFA could not continue operations, lost support of significant donors and grants, and was forced to shut down.
I was still a newspaper reporter when I heard about this, visiting CFA’s offices (in the process of shutting down) for an unrelated story. I spoke with the Executive Director about this fraud, and she was very open about the destructive effect it had on the family and community services provided by the organization. It’s good to see a proportional and fair sentence upheld by the Court of Appeal. In Canada, our principles of sentencing for Criminal Code offences, such a criminal fraud and theft, are set out. These principles provide a guiding list for trial judges, who typically have wide discretion in determining a proportional sentence that reflects the magnitude of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. Five years and restitution seems to fit these facts, particularly as the theft was long term and repeated.
WHAT CAN WE TAKE FROM THIS CASE?
This organization fell victim to forgery and fraud. Trust your staff, but have signing and payment policies in place to provide good oversight of financials. There is no substitute for proper financial controls, and for ensuring that payment and purchase orders confirm that work has actually been done and/or contractors exist when issuing cheques.