A former CIBC manager from Merritt has avoided prison but will face a significant uphill journey to repay the $157,000 she stole, from her mother-in-law and the bank, plus a $300,000 fine from the Mutual Fund Dealers Association, a judge has ruled.
Hope Moira Donna Thomas has had to restart her life near Kelowna after committing fraud against her mother-in-law and the bank to bankroll her drug addiction brought on, in part, by her husband's infidelity, court heard.
On Friday, Kamloops provincial court Judge Ray Phillips handed Thomas a 24-month conditional sentence, dismissing the prosecutors’ request for one or two years in prison.
“You’ve taken advantage of an elderly lady,” the judge said.
“You were at a time in life when things were going poorly, but it’s still no excuse,” he told Thomas.
Thomas will report to a nearby police station, provide a DNA sample and begin 12 months of house arrest with permission to leave for employment and reasonable purposes, including medical matters.
After one year, she faces a further 12 months of night curfew. Following curfew she will be on probation for two years. During the four years, Thomas must remain clean and commit to rehabilitation as requested by her supervisor. She is also ordered to keep the peace and has a 10-year firearms prohibition.
The judge’s leniency was guided by the fact Thomas faces major debt repayments but also because Thomas is remorseful and immediately pleaded guilty to her charges.
“It was always Ms. Thomas’s intention to take responsibility for this offence,” said Phillips.
As well, Thomas’s actions drew media attention.
“It has brought a significant amount of shame and embarrassment in that respect,” Phillips said.
Thomas, who is 41 years old and has a daughter, also started attending Narcotics Anonymous prior to her court proceedings, the court heard.
Thomas was previously banned by the Mutual Fund Dealers Association (MFDA) from future work in the field. Phillips said the conditional sentence allows her to work to start repaying the debt and fines.
According to the facts of the MFDA hearing, Thomas opened a tax-free savings account for her mother-in-law in January 2018 and purchased over $56,000 worth of mutual funds.
In 2019, Thomas redeemed $59,000 worth of funds across 12 transactions. She put the money in a new account she opened on behalf of her 79-year-old family member and subsequently used a bank card to withdraw cash from it. She also took out $34,000 from a joint account between her husband and mother-in-law.
She furthered her fraud by obtaining lines of credit and a loan in the mother-in-law’s name to receive $64,000 from the bank, which has refunded the mother-in-law.
“She stole money from an elderly client who trusted her and also defrauded the bank by obtaining a loan in the client’s name. … She cannot be trusted with clients’ monies in the future,” added the ruling.