‘Grandma’ gets house ar­rest af­ter de­fraud­ing day­care of $140,000

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - TEVIAH MORO tmoro@thes­pec.com 905-526-3264 | @Te­vi­ahMoro

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.

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