Mil­i­tary cook ad­mits to steal­ing credit card, cash from co-work­ers

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - HINA ALAM ha­lam@post­media.com

A mil­i­tary cook pleaded guilty to theft and fraud Tues­day at a mil­i­tary court martial.

Cpl. Jef­frey Kroetsch was charged with steal­ing a MasterCard from one co-worker, which he used to buy $765.90 worth of goods; of steal­ing $40 from an­other co-worker’s change purse and then com­ing back to steal a quar­ter and two nick­els left in it; steal­ing a pack of cig­a­rettes and $4 in coins. The of­fences oc­curred in May 2016.

Steal­ing is a se­ri­ous of­fence, pre­sid­ing mil­i­tary judge Cmdr. San­dra Suk­storf said Tues­day.

Kroetsch’s trou­bles be­gan in Au­gust 2014 when he in­jured his shoul­der in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent, the court martial heard.

Af­ter shoul­der surgery, the cook at the Ed­mon­ton Gar­ri­son Com­bined Mess spi­ralled into a de­pen­dence on al­co­hol, pain med­i­ca­tion and opi­oids, the court martial heard.

His al­co­hol use ex­ceeded 10 drinks a day, at least four days a week, and he mixed pain med­i­ca­tion with al­co­hol.

Around the time of the thefts, he was drink­ing to the point of los­ing con­scious­ness and heard “shad­ows call­ing his name,” the state­ment of charges said.

Af­ter the thefts, Kroetsch spent sev­eral weeks in re­hab and ther­apy and has since been at­tend­ing reg­u­lar coun­selling ses­sions.

Kathleen Story, a civil­ian who has worked at the mess for about 10 years, had $40 taken from her change purse. The thief left be­hind a quar­ter and two nick­els.

“I felt vi­o­lated,” she tes­ti­fied Tues­day.

“He took ev­ery trust I had and threw it out the win­dow.”

Kroetsch was also charged with com­ing back to steal the three re­main­ing coins.

“To go back for a quar­ter and two nick­els sur­prised me,” she said.

De­fence lawyer Maj. A. Geli­nasProulx called Master Cpl. Richard Wood­ward, who was one of Kroetsch’s shift su­per­vi­sors, to the stand.

The ad­dic­tion changed his per­son­al­ity, and Kroetsch be­came bel­liger­ent, Wood­ward tes­ti­fied.

“A num­ber of peo­ple re­fused to work be­side him,” he said.

Since re­hab, Kroetsch has been do­ing bet­ter, he said.

“He’s a great as­set, and very knowl­edge­able as a cook,” Wood­ward said.

The court martial con­tin­ues Wed­nes­day.

I felt vi­o­lated. He took ev­ery trust I had and threw it out the win­dow.

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