Embezzling bookkeeper who defrauded non-profit avoids jail time

Jane Seyd - North Shore News

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file photo Kevin Hill, North Shore News

A woman whose fraud contributed to the financial collapse of a non-profit organization that helped First Nations businesses has received a four-month conditional sentence.

Bobbi Jo Leo, 48, was handed the sentence recently by Judge Joanne Challenger after pleading guilty to fraud under $5,000 in North Vancouver provincial court.

Leo was doing payroll and bookkeeping for the Industry Council for Aboriginal Business in West Vancouver when she used the organization’s corporate credit card to obtain cash advances of $2,400 between April and June 2014, according to the judge’s written decision.

Leo also added hours to her own pay on the electronic system, resulting in an extra $15,000, without approval, wrote Challenger.

When Leo joined the organization in the spring of 2012, the non-profit was doing well, wrote the judge. The woman in charge of the organization trusted Leo and viewed her as a friend, wrote Challenger.

But after the organization volunteered to help a First Nations artist organize his financial records on a limited basis, Leo decided “without any apparent authority” to hire her own daughter to do the work.

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The daughter said she spent 420 hours on the job while Leo claimed 200 hours for the same project.

“It is difficult to comprehend how putting the books for an artist’s retail business in order could require this amount of hours,” wrote the judge. The hours of work also weren’t authorized, wrote Challenger.

When Leo found out neither she nor her daughter would be paid for those hours, “she took matters into her own hands and gave her daughter the money from cash withdrawals on the credit card and some of the other monies embezzled,” wrote the judge.

Challenger added there is no evidence Leo took steps to address concerns “in an appropriate and legal manner before deciding to begin embezzling funds from her employer.”

Leo’s boss spent $23,000 of her own money attempting to cover the shortfall and keep the organization afloat following the fraud, but the council eventually folded, wrote Challenger, noting its closing “was a significant loss to the indigenous community as a whole.”

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Among conditions of her sentence, Leo is not to possess any identification, credit cards or cheques in the name of anyone outside her immediate family or directly related to her employment.

She must also obey a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. each day, with the exception of travel related to employment.

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