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A Splatsin band member from Enderby will serve his sentence for theft over $5,000 in the community.
Supreme Court Justice Beames agreed with defence lawyer Juan O’Quinn’s submission that Donald Jeffrey Thomas, born in 1972, be given a two years less a day conditional sentence for stealing more than $272,700 while he was the manager of the former Super Save Gas Station in Enderby, which burned to the ground in November 2012.
Thomas was convicted by a 12-person jury in December and was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court at the Vernon Courthouse Friday afternoon.
“Serving the sentence in the community will give Mr. Thomas an opportunity to be punished and to show his community that what he did was wrong,” said O’Quinn. “He can go back and show his community that he will live up to his responsibility.”
Crown lawyer Kevin Marks sought a two-year jail sentence in a federal penitentiary, pointing out that, as manager of the gas station, Thomas stole $272,710 over nearly two years by falsifying records, showing how much cash had been put into the ATM machine at the gas station.
Marks said close to $289,000 was discovered deposited into bank accounts in Thomas’ name at the same time.
The theft was discovered when a new Splatsin board demanded a financial audit and analysis of the gas station.
In passing sentence, Beames said Thomas’ crime had serious repercussions on the Splatsin community, saying the money he stole could have been used for various band programs, rather the funds were diverted to his bank accounts.
“His victims are many,” said Beames, who heard four victim impact statements.
She also received close to 25 letters of support for Thomas from community members – though not all community members, she acknowledged – who said Thomas was a “good guy” and a “vital part of the Splatsin community.”
She also heard how Thomas was abused as a child and committed the crimes to fund a gambling addiction.
“To his great credit, Mr. Thomas completed his GED and other courses which qualified him to be a chef, a paralegal and a hairdresser,” said Beames.
There was no evidence presented during Thomas’ two-week trial that he was living a high or luxurious lifestyle during the theft time period other than feeding his gambling addiction.
He had no prior related criminal record, though court did hear that Thomas had two impaired driving charges.
Given a chance to address the court, Thomas said simply, “The only thing I am sorry for is what my community has gone through.”
Marks said a conditional sentence would not act as a deterrent or denounce his crime, but Beames said, in her view, a conditional sentence order is “strong and effective when the offender resides in a small community, where the community will watch to make sure he complies and will report breaches.”
“There is no time off for good behaviour or early release for parole,” said Beames.
Thomas will serve the first 12 months of his conditional sentence on house arrest, meaning he can only leave to go to and from work, and must complete 200 hours of community service work by Feb. 28, 2018.
The second 12 months will feature curfew where Thomas must be inside his home from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. except for work.
Upon completion of the conditional sentence, Thomas will be placed on three years probation and must perform another 100 hours of community service by Feb. 28, 2020.
Thomas was also ordered by Beames to pay restitution to Quilakwa Investments Ltd. – a Splatsin group that owns the gas station – $272,710.
“Mr. Thomas, I said you have done a lot which is to your credit and by imposing this conditional sentence order, I’m putting faith in you that you continue to do things to your credit and the credit of the community, and make right the wrongs you have committed,” said Beames. “I wish you luck.”http://www.vernonmorningstar.com/news/371119791.html