British Columbia

Finance manager spent money allocated to vulnerable clients on holidays, shopping, kennel fees

Posted: 57 minutes ago

Prince George’s Court on the day of Rhonda Lee Bailey’s sentencing in provincial court. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC News)

The former financial manager of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Prince George, B.C., was led from the courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday after being sentenced to two and a half years in prison for stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars. which was supposed to help vulnerable women and girls.

Rhonda Lee Bailey stole $240,000 over a five-year period from the Prince George and District Elizabeth Fry Society and its housing association, where she was in charge of finances, according to an agreed plea.

Bailey, also known as Rhonda Lee Camozzi, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000.

At the sentencing hearing in Prince George’s Provincial Court, Judge Peter McDermick read the agreed statement of facts.

The court heard that between 2013 and 2018, Bailey made more than 1,000 fraudulent transactions using the not-for-profit organisation’s credit cards, later saying she needed the money to “maintain her children’s lifestyle”.

Bailey used the money to pay for personal vacations, flights, hotels, meals, online shopping, kennel fees, Lululemon clothing and other items.

The judge said Bailey used his financial expertise, extensive knowledge of the organization’s policies and position of trust to commit the crime and keep it hidden for five years.

Bailey worked at the Elizabeth Fry Society in Prince George for 12 years before her actions came to light in a 2018 financial audit and she was fired.

In court, the Crown said staff were “haunted” that Bailey’s actions meant the organization lost the opportunity to connect with more customers.

Staff still suffer from sadness, disbelief, anger and a sense of betrayal, according to the Crown, and the crime also had a profound impact on the organisation’s funders.

The judge noted that a large number of people provided positive character references for Bailey. McDermick said they described Bailey as loving, honest, a selfless mother and a role model, and that family and friends were “shocked” when she was charged.

The Crown argued that Bailey’s positive character attributes were the very thing that allowed him to work in a position of trust and keep his crime undetected.

Bailey declined to speak at the sentencing hearing. Her defense attorney read Bailey’s written statement, which said she was “incredibly sorry” for causing “stress and heartache” and wished she could go back and change what happened.

The judge said aggravating factors in the case included Bailey’s position of trust, the scale and duration of his crime, the fact that a non-profit organization was targeted and that a significant number of victims were affected.

“This is a serious set of circumstances,” he said.

The judge sentenced Bailey to two and a half years in prison. She is also subject to a restitution order to repay the $240,000.

As Elizabeth Fry’s staff and supporters left the courtroom after the sentencing, a sheriff allowed Bailey to hug family and friends standing behind her in the gallery before taking her into custody,

The defense had asked for a non-custodial sentence of two years less a day, served under house arrest, with a plan to pay back the money that had been stolen.

The Prince George and Elizabeth Fry District Society and its sister agency, the Prince George Elizabeth Fry Housing Society, provide a wide range of services, including transitional housing for victims of domestic violence, support for pregnant women and young children, counseling and service delivery. of housing for low-income families, people with disabilities and senior citizens.

Bailey was well known in Prince George as a curler. Competing as Rhonda Camozzi, she played on the team that won the BC Scotties Tournament of Hearts title in 2015.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous journalism awards, including a National Network Award for Radio Documentary and the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, BC, Betsy has reported on everything from Tanzanian hip hop to BC’s energy industry and the Paralympics.