December 2021 – Canadian Fraud News Inc.
This press release is sponsored by Investigation Counsel PC, Fraud Recovery Lawyers.
On November 5, 2021, Justice Achtymichuk of the Provincial Court in Vegreville, Alberta, sentenced Maureen Ann Thiel to four years of incarnation for a $1.5M long term fraud that she perpetrated on her employer.
Ms. Thiel was a 16 year employee of Trucking Inc., a family owned business. She was the office manager, earning about $62,000 per year. She was in charge of payroll, accounts payable and receivable, and bank reconciliations. She embezzled $1,587,275.13 through more than 200 fraudulent transactions over six years.
On January 7, 2020, other staff noticed an overpayment to Ms. Thiel on payroll. More payroll records were reviewed. Records for 2019 showed overpayments to Ms. Thiel for every pay period. Some were double her actual earnings.
Ms. Thiel was asked about it that day. She said she knew it was wrong, but felt she was overworked and deserved to be paid more. She said she wanted to “make it right”. Her employment was terminated.
Payroll records were reviewed for other years. They showed Ms. Thiel overpaid herself $92,791.55 with these payroll misappropriations. She manipulated records to hide that she was instructing the payroll provider to pay her extra.
While Trucking Inc. was investigating this, they found a fraudulent cheque. It turned out that Ms. Thiel had been issuing fraudulent cheques to herself. She coded them as payments to common vendors, to hide them. She also left payee names blank on cheques or filled in her name after the cheque was properly signed.
She destroyed the cancelled cheques the bank sent to Trucking Inc. each month to hide her name on the cheques. The first one that was found was received by the bank after Ms. Thiel’s termination, so she couldn’t destroy it. Ultimately, records showed Ms. Thiel embezzled $1,494,483.58.
Victim Impact Statement
Ms. Kit’s Victim Impact Statement outlines years of time, energy, stress and anxiety for them. At the time the fraud was discovered, Trucking Inc. was trying to understand and deal with what was happening financially to their business. There were discussions about cutting costs, cutting staff and wondering if the business was going to survive. The family quit other jobs to try and keep things afloat.
There was a physical and emotional toll from that, and from the betrayal for so many years by Ms Thiel. She was a long-time employee, and someone the aging parents treated like a daughter. The owners sought out therapy to deal with the emotional fallout. That includes lifelong trust issues. Ms. Thiel only paid back $1,000 as restitution.
The Court held that given the circumstances and amounts stolen, the likelihood of harm to the victims was high.
The Court held that the only apparent motive was greed. When confronted by her employer, she said she felt overworked and underpaid. This not explain was later found to be almost $1.5 million stolen over six years.
Mental Heath Issues
Ms. Thiel has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disease Type II with generalized anxiety and depressive symptoms. Type II individuals may have manic or hypo manic episodes fluctuating with depressive episodes. That is different than Type I individuals who may have more severe mania with hallucinations or delusions.
The Court held that this evidence does not support reducing Ms. Thiel’s responsibility as the offender. There was no medical evidence to say that any of Ms. Thiel’s medical conditions caused or contributed to her commission of these crimes. Indeed, it does not appear that her doctor knew anything about the circumstances of these offences.
The Court held that Ms. Thiel knew what she was doing was wrong. She regularly falsified and destroyed documents to hide her tracks over many years. When she was caught, she only acknowledged payroll discrepancies, because that is all that had been discovered at that time. She did not disclose the fraudulent cheques that were discovered later.
The Court recognized that mental health issues can affect sentencing if they cause more severe effects from incarceration. Ms. Thiel did not make that argument. Her mental health condition appears to be successfully managed with medication.
An aggravating factor was that shortly after the fraud was discovered, Ms. Thiel signed documents transferring her interest in the family home to her husband for $10.00. Ms. Thiel’s husband signed a mortgage for $588,000, which was registered on title. These transactions raise doubts about remorse or acceptance of responsibility by Ms. Thiel.
Ms. Thiel has been married for 27 years. She has three adult children. She has had very difficult conversations with her husband and children, and wasn’t confident that her marriage would survive this. Ironically Ms Thiel reported at sentencing (after the fraudulent conveyance) that she now has very strong family support.
Ms. Thiel advised the Court that she has no prospect of satisfying a restitution order. Given her alleged impecuniosity, she refused to consent to a restitution order.
Ms. Thiel did not provide the Court with an accounting of what she did with the $1.5M. In her Agreed Statement of Facts Ms. Thiel reported that she used the stolen money to pay bank loans, credit card debt, and for personal shopping.
The police did not provide the court with evidence of a financial investigation into Ms. Thiel or where the $1.5M went No information was provided to the Court about her ability to pay.
The Court held that an offender’s means have limited import in cases of fraud. The Court held that where a breach of trust is involved, a restitution order may be made even where there does not appear to be any likelihood of repayment.
The Court further held that economic predators should not be permitted to walk away in the future from any obligations to their victims, especially where the proceeds of the fraud remain unaccounted for. Otherwise, crime would pay. The Court ordered that a restitution order for the full amount of the fraud.
Denunciation and deterrence are the most important sentencing objectives for planned, persistent embezzlement by an employee. A four year jail sentence reflects the high gravity of her fraud, her high moral blameworthiness, and the lack of mitigating factors other than her guilty plea. The failure to make reparations for the harm done to the victims suggests that Ms. Thiel has failed to acknowledge the harm that she has done.
A full review of the case is available at R. v. Thiel, 2021 ABPC 286 – here.