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Senior who stole from employer to visit dying friend avoids jail

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A Winnipeg senior who bilked her workplace out of thousands to take trips to see a dying friend in Alberta has been sentenced to house arrest and won't see any real jail time.

Linda Ilies, 65, was trusted with blank cheques that her supervisor at the Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Centre signed in advance for the agency's use.

She instead took some of the cheques to pay herself an extra $38,000 between April 2008 and August 2009.

"It's a little bit like taking from your own people," Judge Brent Stewart told Ilies on Thursday.

"It's not just taking the money. It's the scars that happen afterwards that you have to repay," he said.

Ilies worked for TARR for nearly 30 years, having started there in the 1980s.

The agency provides historical research services to First Nations communities in Manitoba, according to a provincial government description of its mandate.

An audit uncovered poor bookkeeping at the organization, leading the Crown to concede it could prove beyond a reasonable doubt Ilies stole $38,000, Crown attorney Danielle Simard said.

Ilies' longstanding ties to TARR meant they weren't happy to see her go even after the theft was uncovered.

"It was almost like they reluctantly let her go — she'd been there since 1982," Simard said.

Having experienced an at-times difficult upbringing, a series of unfortunate circumstances struck Ilies's life starting in 2005 with the breakup of her second marriage, defence lawyer Ursula Goeres said.

Her beloved mother died a year later, setting off a prolonged grieving process, she added.

A close friend in Edmonton was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so Ilies spent "a significant amount" of what she stole taking trips to go see her before she died in February 2009, said Goeres.

"She's highly remorseful," said the lawyer.

Stewart endorsed a joint-recommendation from the lawyers that Ilies serve a two-year conditional sentence. She had no criminal record and has repaid $13,000 of what was stolen, court heard.

He noted how aboriginal elders — such as Ilies — are seen as role models in their communities.

"Instead what they get from you is a thief," Stewart chided.

He added 100 hours of community service work to her sentence.

Ilies must repay the remaining $25,000 by the end of the 23rd month of her sentence.

 

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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