Repeat fraudster who stole thousands from employer out of jail pending appeal

'Predatory' fraudster on bail

A “predatory” Kamloops fraudster who bilked her employer for $11,000 to pay for concert tickets, weekend getaways and electronics is free on bail pending an appeal of her one-year prison sentence.

Michele Huston, a 50-year-old grandmother, was sentenced in September to 12 months in prison and a further three years of probation after earlier pleading guilty to charges of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000.

Huston spent four months working as bookkeeper for Kamloops Heating and Air Conditioning, during which time she stole or fraudulently spent $11,000 of company money. She was fired in January of 2020 after her coworkers confronted her with a number of suspicious transactions. The extent of the fraud was discovered in the weeks that followed, after an audit and further investigation by Huston’s replacement.

Court heard Huston spent the money on a number of personal items, including concert tickets, a weekend getaway to Sun Peaks, an iPad, a Roomba vacuum, an Xbox and her daughter’s cellphone bill. She also used company funds to cover expenses for Sim’ya Ukrainian Dancers, a youth dance group she organized, and to pay rental fees to School District 73 and a deposit for a bus charter — both for the dance group.

At the time of the offences, the owners of Kamloops Heating and Air Conditioning were grieving the death of one of the company’s owners.

In June, lawyers presented a joint submission that would have kept Huston out of prison with a lengthy sentence of house arrest, but that plan was not accepted by Kamloops provincial court Judge Stella Frame.

Huston has two prior convictions for similar offences — fraud in 2009 and theft in 2010 — and both times she avoided jail.

Describing Huston as "predatory," Frame sentenced her to a year in jail and imposed probation conditions that will prohibit her from working or volunteering in a position that puts her in control of a company or organization’s money.

She would also be required to tell her employers about her criminal history and pay more than $7,100 in restitution to Kamloops Heating and Air Conditioning, to cover the amount they were out after recouping what they could.

A date for Huston’s appeal has not yet been set.

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