For a while at least, crime paid well for Emily Happyjack-Gull and Josephine Happyjack-Gull. But the two convicted bank thieves will have a stretch of time in prison to consider whether it was all worth it.
They were sentenced August 22 in Waswanipi court to eight months in jail.
The two women, along with two others in Waswanipi, pleaded guilty last October to theft of $277,925 from banking accounts at the Waswanipi Caisse Populaire Desjardins, where the four women worked. The incidents occurred over a two-year period, from January 2001 until July 2003. None of the cash was ever recovered.
The other women, Cynthia Saganash and Pauline Icebound, were given house arrest in May.
All four were found guilty of stealing money from entities within the community, including two grocery stores, the day care centre, and the band office.
In addition, the two Happyjack-Gulls will have 18 months of supervised parole once they get out of jail.
“The files of the two were somewhat different, but we arrived at the same conclusion at the end,” said Crown prosecutor Thierry Potvin. “Josephine was the one who participated the most in the defrauding, but Emily was in a position of superiority, she was a manager or supervisor at that time. Because of those two factors, they got the same sentence.”
The Crown asked the judge for 12-15 months. The defence wanted a conditional sentence for Josephine.
“The judge said that because of the gravity of the offence and the fact that it was a breach of trust, a conditional sentence was not enough. She said that since they are members of a First Nation, they can still be given jail time, but it should be shortened,” said Potvin.
Potvin explained the scam.
“They would take money from clients and not deposit them into their accounts, they would put it aside. They would also make withdrawals from company accounts and take money directly from the teller,” said Potvin.
“Every time the manager did a spot check on them, all four would lend monies to the teller who was about to be checked, so it balance. So it took 18 to 24 months to find out the problem.”