Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Finally, justice has been done'

Employee sentenced for fraud

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The co-owner of a Winnipeg-based transportation company expressed relief Wednesday after witnessing a once-trusted employee who cunningly bilked his business out of hundreds of thousands of dollars get sent to prison for 4 1/2 years.

But it wasn't the amount of prison time Lisa Lavergne will serve that gave Jonathon Gershman of G2 Logistics solace. It was more that she was held to account at all.

"Finally, justice has been done," Gershman told the Free Press after watching Lavergne, a serial fraudster, learn her fate.

"It's been a tough three to four years. But at least we now know that justice has been served."

Lavergne, 46, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in April 2011 after being arrested in fall 2009.

Since Lavergne admitted her guilt, Gershman has watched as the woman he and others once viewed as a trusted colleague repeatedly devised dodgy excuses and tactics to stall having to face the music.

Court heard that when she skipped her last sentencing date in November and a warrant was issued for her arrest, it took the Winnipeg police fugitive squad months and many hours of officer time to get a bead on her.

When they finally did in mid-June, the mother of three was found sitting in a packed-up truck with her passport in her purse, Crown attorney Jocelyne Ritchot said.

Ritchot described Lavergne as "an incorrigible fraud artist" and "a menace to society" who is "driven by greed." She asked provincial court Judge John Guy to imprison her for five years.

Employed as a freight-routing specialist by G2 in 2003 with a salary of about $48,000 a year, Lavergne carried out a sophisticated illegal invoicing scheme starting in 2008, which diverted $262,962 of G2's money into her own bank account.

In all, Lavergne created 369 bogus invoices to trigger the issuing of cheques to rip the company off bit by bit until the discovery of her deception in August 2009.

"You had an opportunity 368 times to say, 'Hold the phone, I shouldn't be doing this,' " Guy told her.

"We're not talking about an 18-year-old girl who didn't know any better."

Lavergne has prior convictions for false pretences, theft and under the Excise Tax Act for claiming $27,000 worth of ineligible GST rebates by creating fake expenses and invoices, said Ritchot.

In 1997, she was sentenced to 30 months after admitting to four counts of fraud over $5,000 -- frauds that also involved breaching the trust of her employers.

In one case, she used money stolen from one company to pay a civil-court judgment a former employer obtained against her, court heard.

A victim-impact statement written by Gershman on behalf of the company was presented to Guy, but not read out in detail.

In the wake of the losses from Lavergne's fraud, the company had to downsize, Ritchot said.

As well, there was also a large amount of "personal betrayal" employees had to deal with.

Through defence lawyer Aaron Braun, Lavergne asked Guy to impose a three-year penalty.

"She says she's ashamed and embarrassed," Braun said, adding she took responsibilty for her actions quickly after being arrested.

He pointed to several G2 Logistics employees present in court, with many wearing bright orange T-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as, "Six to life without the possibility of snacks" and "Three to life, second stint."

"There's a number of people here obviously not fond of her," said Braun.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2013 B1

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