High-quality, probation and $20Okay restitution for Saskatoon nurse who defrauded union

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Mary Lorraine Wilson, 58, was a Parkridge Centre nurse and president of the local union she stole from between 2015 and 2019.

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Bre McAdam Saskatoon StarPhoenix Mary Lorraine Wilson, 58, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and was sentenced to 12 months of probation that required her to repay the $20,000 she stole from her local nurse's union between 2015 and 2019. Mary Lorraine Wilson, 58, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and was sentenced to 12 months of probation that required her to repay the $20,000 she stole from her local nurse’s union between 2015 and 2019. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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A nurse at Saskatoon’s Parkridge Centre was the president of her local union when she stole $20,000 from the organization over four years.

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Mary Lorraine Wilson, 58, brought a single $20,000 cheque to her sentencing hearing in Saskatoon provincial court last month to make up for the 95 cheques she used to defraud the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses Local 151.

Court heard between 2015 and 2019, Wilson forged the vice-president’s signature on union cheques and used the money for “everyday spending.”

Wilson pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000. She was sentenced, as part of a joint submission from the Crown and defence, to 12 months of probation that required her to repay the stolen funds, and to a fine of $2,340.

In December 2019, the provincial nurses’ union paid for a forensic audit and found $20,000 in misappropriated funds that were not authorized or related to union business, according to the agreed statement of facts presented in court.

Police obtained a production order and found that “all the money had been flowing through to Ms. Wilson,” Crown prosecutor Darren Howarth said.

Court heard the fraud came to light after Wilson’s co-worker, Stacey Moore, decided to run for president against Wilson in 2018. She said she became suspicious when Wilson failed to show her the financial books.

“This person that I trusted and wanted to learn from had totally betrayed my trust along with other members,” Moore said, reading her victim impact statement.

She described how this created a toxic work environment that “killed her spirit,” causing her to go on a mental health leave due to the anxiety of having to continue working with Wilson.

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Howarth said Wilson wasn’t stealing from an employer — she was stealing from the very people she worked with every day, leaving a local union in “shatters.”

Moore said the local had to start repaying the provincial union that was covering the deficit. It couldn’t afford to send members to educational events; people became extremely distrustful of the union, and hostile at work, she said.

The fact that Wilson caused a rippling loss of trust by abusing her position for a significant amount of time, implicating others through forgery, is an aggravating factor, Howarth said.

Terry Leslar, vice-president and longtime union member, spoke in court, describing the stress of being investigated and the whispered speculation that he was involved before he was able to clear his name.

“How can someone work side-by-side with another colleague for several years and think nothing of it? This type of activity is beyond me,” he said through tears.

Defence lawyer Daniel Katzman said the fraud started a year after Wilson’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and went on disability leave, and amid a gambling addiction for which she is receiving counselling.

“I realize my actions have caused a lot of people a lot of harm and I’m really sorry,” Wilson told court.

Judge Vanessa Monar Enweani noted the threshold to reject a joint submission is high, but called the proposed fine and probation “a bit unusual” considering jail time was an option.

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Conditional sentence orders (jail in the community) were removed as sentencing options for this type of offence, meaning custodial sentences are usually imposed, she noted.

“This is a person with life skills who does not want to be in this court process again. A probation order carries all the teeth of a CSO for this type of offender,” said Howarth, who specializes in fraud prosecutions.

He added that he would have asked for a jail sentence if the fraud amount was higher.

As part of her probation conditions, Wilson must also complete 40 hours of community service and cannot seek any employment or volunteer position where she would have authority over money.

“I feel so betrayed by you, and so do many other people. I hope that this will stay with you, and I hope you have to keep thinking about what you did,” Moore said.

“You didn’t just take money from people, you took part of our love for our job away. It is going to take years for the trust in the workplace to come back.”

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