A Kamloops woman who stole nearly $17,000 from her employer could spend three months in prison.
Maegan Viger pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Tuesday to one count of theft over $5,000.
The 35-year-old worked for Kala Geosciences from 2009 until her resignation in early 2017, after which her replacement uncovered a number of discrepancies in the company’s financial records.
Viger had been the company’s financial administrator, court heard, making her the sole employee responsible for payroll management and verifying purchases on company credit cards.
During a three-year-period beginning in December 2013, Viger stole $16,872 from her company — approximately half of it by way of fraudulent credit card purchases and the rest by inflating her own wage in payroll.
Crown prosecutor Laura Drake said some of Viger’s fraudulent credit card purchases could have been disguised as office spending, but others were more flagrant.
“There was gas for her personal vehicle, various gift cards at places like Starbucks, small charges at Tim Hortons in the morning, when it might be breakfast or a coffee on the way to work, dry cleaning and, occasionally, larger-scale purchases — $300 or $400 — at Mountain Equipment Co-op or Cleo clothing store, for example,” Drake said.
Court heard Viger also began intermittently inflating her own wage by as much as $2 an hour.
“Some months she’d up it slightly, then it would go back down to the agreed-upon rate,” Drake said. “Over the course of four years, this ended up an overpayment, between regular wage and vacation pay, of $8,333.”
Drake asked B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan to impose a jail sentence of 90 days to send a message to other employees that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
“It can be very easy to do what Ms. Viger did and it can be very tempting,” Drake said.
“Sending a message to other people that the courts take this very seriously — and, often, that means going to jail — is of paramount importance.”
Drake urged Donegan to consider the fact Viger abused a position of trust.
“Employers’ trust in their employees is what allows commerce to operate in this country,” she said. “It is this trust Ms. Viger violated.”
Court heard Viger repaid the credit card expenses as part of a small claims settlement and that she intends to pay back the remainder as soon as next month.
Defence lawyer Brad Smith pitched a conditional discharge for Viger, meaning she would not have a criminal record following a period of probation.
“Yes, I realize that would be an exceptional result,” he told Donegan. “But, in the circumstances, it is an appropriate outcome.”
Smith said Viger was at a breaking point when she stole from her company.
“The long and the short of it is, Ms. Viger found herself in a toxic work environment where she was bullied for a number of years,” he said. “That caused her significant emotional and mental stress.”
Viger has no previous criminal record. Smith argued a conviction could affect her when looking for work in the future.
Drake said it should.
“Future employers have a right to at least know this has happened,” she said. “That decision should not be left up to her by her not having a criminal record.”
Lawyers will return to court on Monday to set a date for sentencing.