The former nanny for the family of a terminally ill Manitoba judge took advantage of a tragic situation, leveraged her insider access and bilked the judge's grieving widow of more than $165,000 to buy herself furniture, electronics and other items, court heard Monday.
Kelly Zaborowicz, 42, will have to wait until next month to learn if she'll be allowed to avoid serving jail time after pleading guilty to theft over $5,000 from Susan Wortzman, the wife of the late Court of Queen's Bench judge John Scurfield.
Scurfield died of cancer in November 2009 at 57 after being diagnosed in 2008, the same year Zaborowicz went to work for the family as a housekeeper and nanny to Scurfield's young son.
Between September 2008 and September 2011, Zaborowicz forged 192 cheques worth $165,673, the majority deposited in her personal bank account, the Crown said.
'I needed tremendous support during this time and it feels like such a nightmare for me that a person in whom I placed so much trust betrayed me' -- Susan Wortzman
Some were also used to pay off balances on a credit card in Wortzman's name that Zaborowicz stole. As well, cheques were cashed after she left her position, court heard.
"This is an individual trying to live a lifestyle on someone else's dime," prosecutor Carrie Ritchot told provincial court Judge Larry Allen. "This person completely took advantage of the situation at what was the worst time in their life."
Wortzman, who now lives in Toronto, appeared for the sentencing hearing and read an impact statement to Allen. She said she clearly remembered Scurfield personally asked Zaborowicz to "stick around" and continue to assist his family after telling her about his terminal diagnosis.
After Scurfield died, Wortzman, suddenly a single mom, had to travel often for work and depended on Zaborowicz to manage things at home, she said.
"I needed tremendous support during this time, and it feels like such a nightmare for me that a person in whom I placed so much trust betrayed me," Wortzman said.
Zaborowicz spent thousands at a Winnipeg furniture store, outfitting her condo with "the proceeds of crime," Ritchot said.
Zaborowicz has no prior criminal record and did not contest a civil lawsuit in which Wortzman won a judgment against her in 2012.
The Crown and defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk jointly recommended Zaborowicz receive a two-year conditional sentence, to be served under an absolute curfew at home, plus years of probation to follow. The sentence would include set repayments to allow the mother of two to continue paying back what she stole.
By the end of the hearing, Allen seemed unsure whether a conditional term would be a proper punishment.
Several times, Allen requested more information from the lawyers about the case and what was agreed to. "I obviously have concerns about this joint recommendation," he said.
Zaborowicz, who also goes by the surname Zabor, "lacks assertiveness" and got in a "jackpot" by not just saying no to a relative's request for financial help, Sawchuk said.
That and other pressures led her to go through a "breakdown of sorts" and she began stealing, he said.
He conceded the first offender suddenly turning to crime in her late 30s "makes no sense."
Zaborowicz turned directly to Wortzman in court when offered a chance to speak. "I'm sorry, to everyone. I truly am," she said.
Allen will rule on the case Oct. 18.