A Calgary-based cryptocurrency company briefly lost an envelope stuffed with more than $94,000 cash two years ago.
The money, which belonged to BitNational, had been shipped with Purolator in December 2020 – but it didn’t make it past the shipping centre in Burnaby, according to facts presented in Vancouver provincial court last week.
The package landed in the lap of George Petrelli, a 25-year veteran Purolator employee, in a moment of weakness, according to defence lawyer Tom Doust.
“I don’t know, but I suspect having $100,000 in cash in an envelope, holding it in your hand and seeing that the package is open and you can see 50s and 100s, this is temptation,” Doust told the court. “This is an extreme example of temptation.”
Doust noted Petrelli’s wife was also battling cancer at the time and he was under a lot of pressure.
Petrelli stole the cash and replaced it with an envelope.
He stowed it in his garden shed, according to Doust.
Meanwhile, the empty Purolator shipment arrived at its destination, and the recipient was soon making inquiries about the missing cash.
Security video pointed to Petrelli as the culprit.
He denied it at first, but then “very quickly admitted to the offence,” according to Crown prosecutor Louise Gauld.
He returned all of the money that was hidden at his house and “immediately” replaced $2,000 he had spent at a casino, she said.
Gauld called for a 12-month suspended sentence with 50 hours of community work service.
She said Petrelli would be unlikely to re-offend, but the sentence was necessary to deter others from such offences.
But Doust called for a 12-month conditional discharge, saying Petrelli had suffered enough for his moment of weakness.
Petrelli, a husband and father of two, who has worked all his life, was fired from the job he’d held for 25 years and is now battling depression, Doust said.
He has no criminal record and has been a “law-abiding, contributing member of society” according to Doust.
Doust argued Petrelli’s theft had not been a case of an employee trying to “connive and plot” to defraud his employer, but a “brief, ill-advised decision.”
“This is a one-off situation, where he’s presented with this unrealistic opportunity that he would never have imagined, and he reacted and he made a decision he regrets.”
If the public was aware of all the circumstances of the case – including the unique situation of a Purolator employee encountering a package stuffed with $94,060 – Doust said most wouldn’t oppose a conditional charge, which would leave Petrelli without a criminal record if he successfully completes his year of probation.
“I really, truly believe that if the public knew all the facts and all the circumstances of this case, that nary a one of them would say he should get a criminal record and he should suffer more,” Doust said.
B.C. provincial court Judge Reginald Harris agreed a conditional discharge was appropriate in the case.
He granted Petrelli a 12-month conditional discharge with 30 hours of community work service.
For the first two months of his one year of probation, Petrelli will be under a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
He is also banned from the Burnaby Purolator facility on Douglas Road and from gambling or attending any B.C. casino.
“In my view, blending all of these together and the unique circumstances of this offence would achieve the requisite degree of denunciation that’s not already been achieved through him losing his job, his reduced pay, the shame he’s felt, the number of times he’s come before the court and being before the court today,” Harris said.
Purolator does not accept cash for shipments unless the customer has received prior written approval from Purolator, according to the company’s terms and conditions of service.
A Purolator spokesperson told the NOW the company could not comment on BitNational’s specific account details for privacy and security reasons but said it is not “common” for Purolator to give pre-approvals for cash shipments.
“We have very few customers who are pre-approved to ship cash in small quantities,” said Courtney Reistetter, senior manager of corporate communications for Purolator.
BitNational did not respond to a request for comment on its $94,060 shipment.
Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor