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A Winnipeg accountant with a gambling problem who spent seven years defrauding his employer of almost $2 million has been sentenced to six years in prison.
Maximilian Panzo has 31 months left to serve after Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sadie Bond imposed the sentence Monday. Panzo pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 after stealing $1,978,289.78 from Fineline Communications Ltd. between 2008 and 2015.
"The crime that Mr. Panzo has committed was premeditated, sophisticated and ongoing. It was not impulsive. It was calculated and purposeful," Bond said.
By the time his fraud was discovered, Panzo had worked for the company for 25 years, and was seen as a trusted advisor.
The certified general accountant had worked his way up to become chief financial officer and executive vice-president for the corporation, which offered fundraising support to non-profit organizations. Panzo had sole access to the executive payroll system, so he was able to increase his own paycheque and create fraudulent payroll entries. He also increased the income-tax deductions he reported to the Canada Revenue Agency and had them credited to his own account, expensing the company rather than having them deducted from his salary.
In 2015, the company was about to be sold, and the purchaser wanted access to the payroll documents. Panzo tried to keep his fraud hidden by removing computers from the company office and concealing certain documents.
The police were called to investigate and an accounting firm conducted a forensic audit that revealed the extent of Panzo's deceit. Even after he pleaded guilty and expressed remorse for the fraud, Panzo told the writer of his pre-sentence report he deserved an annual royalty from the company because he had helped increase its value before it was sold.
He was arrested in April 2016, and has been in custody since that time. He was stripped of his accounting certification in December 2016, although the disciplinary panel for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Manitoba only looked into allegations dating to 2010.
The CPA ordered him to pay $10,000 in costs as part of its decision in addition to a civil-court judgment ordering him to repay more than a million dollars to his former employer. None of that has been repaid.
On Monday, Bond made a restitution order for $143,533.90, but she noted it's unlikely Panzo will ever be able to pay back the money he stole in anything but "a minimal or symbolic way."
Panzo had a gambling habit and used some of the money he stole at casinos and online gambling websites, but Bond said that didn't make much difference to her decision on his prison sentence.
"There is no expert evidence before me that he was in the grips of an addiction that he could not control, and no evidence that in desperation, he turned to crime to save himself and his family from financial ruin," she said.
Crown prosecutors had asked for a seven-year sentence, while Panzo's defence lawyer had sought 5 1/2 years.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.