‘Grandma’ gets house arrest after defrauding daycare of $140,000
A non-profit daycare centre on the west Mountain is operating steadily after a massive fraud shook its foundations four years ago.
“We’re doing well. We got back on our feet and the staff pulled together. We have very loyal families and we’re fine,” Jill Penny of Paradise Corner Children’s Centre said Tuesday.
Mary Madeline Robertson, a 22year former employee of the Rymal Road West and Upper Paradise Road centre, was sentenced to six months house arrest on Friday.
Before sentencing, the 63-yearold who was known as “Grandma” to children, paid the non-profit $50,000, said Penny, the centre’s co-ordinator.
On Friday, Justice Fred Campling ordered Robertson to pay another $54,000 in restitution. No timeline accompanied the order.
Penny said staff discovered the irregularities in July 2012 when Robertson temporarily left her bookkeeping duties to undergo surgery. Other staff took over. “Immediately, red flags came up.” As staff dug deeper, they realized Robertson had been taking cash payments from families for herself, depriving the centre of funds.
“The layers of lies and deceit were slowly pulled back,” Penny told court in a victim impact statement.
Police found that the thefts took place between February 2010 and July 2012, amounting to more than $140,000 in stolen funds.
The loss of revenue crippled the centre, which has operated since 1983 and takes care of about 100 children. “It was absolutely desperate. We had extreme financial pressures at the time,” Penny recalled.
The sense of betrayal also stung. “It was also a complete shock.”
Penny said the centre has instituted new measures to guard against a similar fraud ever happening again. “I guess the analogy is the hole in the bucket was plugged.”
Renovations that were delayed because of the financial crunch have been done, she noted.
Robertson — who was given a 12month conditional sentence, half of which is to be spent in house arrest — must also pay a $200 victim surcharge.