An oldie but a goodie — British Columbia’s ELIA KRATKY embezzles $436k from three dental offices; receives conditional sentence

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  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

                     Reasons for Sentence

                     Mr. Justice Curtis

                       October 8, 1997

                    HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN

                           AGAINST

                        ELIA KRATKY

Counsel for the Crown:                          Mr. Carstairs

Counsel for the Defendant:                        Mr. Gibbons

                                                   Mr. Fowler

[1]  THE COURT:  Elia Kratky has pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud.  She admits that using her position as a part-time manager and bookkeeper for three local dental clinics, she defrauded the clinics and the nine dentists involved of a combined total of $436,535 between January 1, 1991 and March 31, 1995.

[2]  Ms. Kratky’s fraud was discovered in March 1995 when a departing employee informed the dentists at the Capilano Centre that Kratky was not accurately preparing daily bank deposits and other bookkeeping entries, and an investigation was started.  Kratky’s employment was terminated and it was discovered that Kratky had, by various means, taken substantial amounts of money.  She took cash which she was supposed to have deposited for the clinics.  In the guise of paying legitimate clinic accounts, she used cheques to transfer money to herself.  She also altered the payees on some cheques to deposit money to her own credit.  She manipulated financial books and records in her control to hide her misappropriations.

[3]  Ms. Kratky is 52 years of age and married with an adult daughter.  She has a grade 10 education.  Her previous criminal record is a conviction in 1979, when she was 34, for three counts of theft over $200, for which she received a suspended sentence and 12 months probation.

[4]  The dentists who were defrauded commenced two civil actions against Elia Kratky and others, including her husband.  These actions have resulted in a settlement in which a consent order has been entered requiring Ms. Kratky to pay the principal sum of $828,000, prejudgment interest of $145,065.90, and punitive damages of $60,000, plus special costs and disbursements.  Of this amount, $608,662.41 has been paid by the disposal of assets of Ms. Kratky and her husband, as documented in the defence exhibit.  Accordingly, Elia Kratky and her husband have repaid the amount of the fraud admitted in these proceedings, and more.

[5]  The nine dentists defrauded have suffered financial loss, and as documented in their victim impact statements, personal turmoil and a profound feeling of betrayal.

[6]  Subsequent to the discovery of her fraud, Elia Kratky has been hospitalized for depression.  She is currently under the treatment of Dr. Eaves, a psychiatrist whom she sees once a week.  It is Dr. Eaves’ opinion that she remains deeply depressed and has recurrent suicidal ideation.  Dr. Eaves states that she acknowledges what she has done was wrong and is extremely remorseful, although I note one of the dentists, in his victim impact statement, states that Ms. Kratky gave no apology and no explanation for her actions throughout the civil suit taken against her.

[7]  In these proceedings, in addition to pleading guilty, she waived the preliminary hearing.  Mr. Carstairs, on behalf of the Crown, submits that 18 months to two years less a day is the appropriate range of sentence.  He specifically advised me that I must consider the provisions of the Code relating to a conditional sentence in this case, but stated the Crown takes no position on whether a conditional sentence should or should not be imposed.

[8]  Mr. Gibbons, for Ms. Kratky, does not take issue with the range of sentence suggested by the Crown, except to the extent that he suggests 12 months may be appropriate, but urges me to make any sentence a conditional one.

[9]  The purposes and principles of sentencing are set out in the Criminal Code.  S. 718 of the Criminal Code states:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:

a)to denounce unlawful conduct

b)to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences

c)to separate offenders from society where necessary

d)to assist in rehabilitating offenders

e)to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community, and

f)to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders and acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community.

[10] S. 718.1 states:

A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

[11] S. 718.2, insofar as it applies to the circumstances of this case, states:

A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

a)a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant, aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim shall be deemed to be aggravating circumstances.

b)a sentence should be similar to sentences imposed on similar offenders for similar offences committed in similar circumstances.

c)where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh.

d)an offender should not be deprived of liberty if less restrictive sanctions may be appropriate in the circumstances, and

e)all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

[12] S. 742.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada states:

Where a person is convicted of an offence, except an offence that is punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment and the court:

a)imposes a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years, and

b)is satisfied that serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community and would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in s. 718 to 718.2

the court may, for the purposes of supervising the offender’s behaviour in the community, order that the offender serve the sentence in the community subject to the offender’s complying with the conditions of a conditional sentence order made under s. 742.3.

[13] The imposition of conditional sentences has recently been given extensive consideration by the Court of Appeal in this province in the case of Regina v. Ursal et al.  At page 49 of the Ursal decision, Justice Ryan states:

Accordingly, when asked to consider imposing a conditional sentence where the Code does not mandate a minimum sentence, the judge must first consider whether a sentence of less than two years is appropriate in the circumstances.  If the trial judge determines that a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years is fitting, he or she will then go on to consider the type and length of sentence, taking into account the requirements of s. 742.1(b) and the principles and objectives of sentencing.  If the trial judge decides to impose a conditional sentence, the trial judge will bear in mind, in determining the length of the sentence, that while a community sentence may not be as severe as a jail sentence, a community sentence will be unaffected by parole as long as the offender remains in the community, and that if revocation should occur, the offender will serve some or all of the sentence in jail.

[14] I accept the submission of Crown counsel that the appropriate range of sentence for this case is 18 months to two years less a day.  I am satisfied that Ms. Kratky would not endanger the safety of the community if she were to serve her sentence in it.

[15] The remaining question therefore is whether a conditional sentence would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing as set out in the sections to which I have just referred.  Although it is not possible to be certain a person will not repeat their offence, I think it unlikely that Elia Kratky will do so.  Accordingly, the only two purposes of sentencing that might not be met by a conditional sentence are those of denouncing unlawful conduct and deterring others.

[16] A conditional sentence imposes substantial restraint upon the liberty of the offender.  It is not subject to parole and therefore must be served in full.  Jail sentences for offenders like Ms. Kratky are frequently served on electronic monitoring and often reduced to one-third of the sentence through mandatory supervision and parole.  The practical reality is that while a jail sentence may sound more severe, a conditional sentence in totality may be equally or significantly as severe as the jail sentence.

[17] I am satisfied that in this case the principles of denunciation and general deterrence, along with the other principles of sentencing, can reasonably be served by a conditional sentence of 18 months.

[18] Elia Kratky, would you stand, please.  On each of counts 2, 4 and 6 to which you have pleaded guilty, I sentence you to serve a conditional sentence in the community, the conditions of which sentence are as follows.  You shall keep the peace and be of good behaviour; appear before the court when required to do so by the court; report to a supervisor within two working days and thereafter when required by the supervisor and in the manner required by the supervisor; remain within the jurisdiction of the court unless written permission to go outside that jurisdiction is obtained from the court or the supervisor; notify the court or supervisor in advance of any change of name or address; and promptly notify the court or the supervisor of a change of employment or occupation.

[19] In addition, you shall abstain from the consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating substances; attend a psychiatric treatment program as directed by Dr. Eaves or your supervisor; and comply with the following terms which I consider desirable to secure your good conduct and prevent the commission of other offences.  Seek and maintain gainful employment; advise your employer of your conviction for these offences; be in your residence at 6635 Wade Road, Delta, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., except for the purposes of employment or medical treatment; and for the purpose of ensuring your compliance with these conditions, authorize your supervisor to attend and enter your residence at any time.

[20] You shall receive a copy of this order. Under s. 742.4 of the Code, your supervisor may propose changes to the conditions I have ordered. Under s. 742.6, should you breach any of these conditions, you may be charged with doing so, which could result in the conditions being changed or your serving the rest of the sentence in jail.

[21] The sentences imposed on all three counts are to be served concurrently, that is, at the same time.  You may sit down, ma’am.

                             “V.R. Curtis, J.”                

                             The Honourable Mr. Justice V.R. Curtis