PICTOU – A New Glasgow woman who stole money from two local charities has a year to prove she can keep her life on the right path.
Jamie Marguerite Dahl, 36, was sentenced to 12 months’ probation as part of a conditional discharge Thursday in Pictou Provincial Court after pleading guilty to two counts of thefts from the United Way of Pictou County and New Glasgow Junior High School. If she follows through with the conditions of her probation, she won’t have a criminal record at the end of 12 months.
Crown attorney Jody McNeill said the United Way reported the theft in November of more than $2,500 that was raised during a fundraiser in July 2012.
United Way’s executive director Jessica Smith told police she counted the money after the July fundraiser with a summer student and then handed it off to the agency’s administrative worker, Dahl, for deposit.
“The funds were never deposited,” said McNeill.
Dahl’s position at the United Way was terminated in November for unrelated reasons and Smith found out shortly afterwards that the money never made its way into the bank account.
Dahl told police she took the money to help pay some bills during a difficult financial time in her life.
On the same November day that Dahl was let go from the United Way, she attended a silent auction fundraiser at New Glasgow Junior High School. She was treasurer of the home and school association at the time and was asked to deposit $6,700 from the fundraiser, but she kept it for her own use.
“She left the school with the money in her possession,” McNeill said, adding that when police contacted her, she had spent $656.89 of the $6,700 to pay her rent, gas for her car and some food.
Defence lawyer Jennifer Cox said Dahl’s behaviour could be attributed to untreated medical problems at the time that include being bipolar and having diabetes and hypothyroidism.
“None of these being treated at the time affected her ability to make good choices,” she said.
Cox added that Dahl is now getting treatment and did seek employment in the past, but is currently living on social assistance trying to support her family as single mother.
When asked if she wanted to address the court, Dahl told Pictou Provincial Court Judge Del Atwood that she has grown from this experience and is getting the help she needs.
“I’ve learned that I have support systems out there to make myself better,” she said, adding that she is willing to do whatever she can to show her community she is sorry for her actions.
Atwood acknowledged that Dahl’s admission to the thefts and co-operation with police during their investigation were positive factors in addition to the fact that she didn’t have prior criminal record.
He said the thefts were spontaneous crimes of opportunity, but ones that have chilling effects on charities struggling to make money from community donations.
“Members of the public can become reluctant to contribute to a charity if they are concerned the money they donate will end up in the wrong hands,” he said.
Although the Crown asked the judge to considering a conditional sentence order of three to six months, Atwood agreed with Cox that a conditional discharge would be better suited for Dahl and her rehabilitation.
In addition to the probation, Dahl was also ordered to pay $2907.14 in restitution to the United Way of Pictou County as well as $656.89 to the local school board.