A parent who embezzled nearly $23,000 from a school band program has agreed to pay back the money even though she's making minimum wage.
Elizabeth Sherwood was sentenced to two months of house arrest and a long period of probation for stealing the money as volunteer treasurer of the band program at Okanagan Mission Secondary. She took money high-school students had raised for band trips in Grade 12, court heard Monday.
"There's hardly a moment that goes by that I don't dwell on my actions and what I've done to everyone involved. I'll carry this guilt with me for the rest of my life for those that I've harmed," she said tearfully before Judge Jim Threlfall passed sentence Monday.
Sherwood, 48, signed her name on 37 unauthorized cheques amounting to $22,894 dating from May 2010 to August 2012. The cheques required two signatures, but only two had a second name signed - a forgery of band teacher Ed Schnellert. The other 35 were written to members of her family.
The TD Bank branch that Sherwood withdrew from failed to note the forgeries or the fact most cheques lacked two signatures, court heard.
"Had the bank followed its own procedures, some of the funds would not have been lost," said Threlfall.
School staff noticed the band account's low balance after Schnellert tried to contact Sherwood and she failed to reply. When police confronted her, she confessed right away.
The mother of two daughters - ages 20 and 24 - was married to an abusive, alcoholic husband who demanded she find a way to pay the family's bills, said Crown counsel Debra Pope. She'd fill out a random amount on each cheque and deposit the money in credit-union
accounts she had access to.
The couple has since separated.
The funds were to be transferred to an in-house account within the school when the theft was discovered. The money raised by donations and fundraisers covered band trips, equipment and other expenses.
Sherwood makes minimum wage at a fast-food outlet and works part-time at a seniors residence. Even if she saves enough to cover what she stole, current
students won't benefit, the judge said.
Even so, Grade 12 students are planning a band trip to Croatia this school year, said superintendent Hugh Gloster of the Central Okanagan school district.
"They'll be compromised somewhat. They have $22,000 less revenue at their disposal, (but) they'll
recover from this."
The district has changed the way money is collected with more checks and balances, Gloster said.
"Everyone is terribly saddened by this for all kinds of reasons," Gloster said. "We took steps immediately when we found out."
Sherwood was given an eight-month conditional sentence and 18 months of probation. She's confined to her home for the first two months unless she's working or seeing a doctor. The judge said Sherwood won't likely reoffend. He ordered her to pay back the money in full and recommended she get counselling.