A former councillor of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) who defrauded the Nation out of close to $1 million should go to jail for four years for her crimes, a Crown prosecutor told a judge Wednesday (May 4).
Crown counsel Jim Bird made the arguments in a sentencing hearing for former band councillor and department head Krisandra Jacobs, 57, who was found guilty of charges of fraud and theft from the Squamish Nation on Nov. 5 by North Vancouver provincial court Judge Lyndsay Smith.
Describing Jacobs’s crime as a “large scale fraud” in which at least $850,000 was taken, Bird told the judge in North Vancouver provincial court that Jacobs’s position of trust within the Nation was an aggravating factor in the case.
At the time she took the money, Jacobs was entrusted with assisting some of the most vulnerable members of the Squamish Nation, said Bird. By taking the money, “she took away from some of the help that could have been provided,” said Bird.
“Given that this case is close to a million dollars, it’s a serious offence,” he added.
Bird said Jacobs’ crimes were committed over a long period of time, which meant she had time to consider her actions.
In a victim impact statement written on behalf of the Squamish Nation, spokesperson Khelsilem said Jacobs’ fraud will have a long-term impact on the Nation, saying “we will never recover the loss” or know how many people the missing money could have helped.
At the time of the fraud, between April 2011 and May 2014, Jacobs and the Nation’s elected band manager Glen Newman were in charge of an emergency fund meant as a fund of last resort for Nation members in need. Usually, requests for emergency assistance came through legitimate channels and were backed up with proper documentation afterwards.
But during the trial, several witnesses who worked in the Nation’s finance department described how Jacobs had set up an additional “shadow process” that she used to circumvent those controls.
In finding Jacobs guilty, the judge said she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Jacobs had deliberately crafted a scheme whereby she used her powerful position in the Nation’s political structure to bypass financial checks and balances and obtain money for her own purposes.
Jacobs’ lawyer John Turner asked the judge to consider a much shorter sentence of two years in jail, saying as an Indigenous woman, Jacobs had a hard life and had suffered from depression. In response to that, Jacobs developed a gambling addiction, said Turner. “Gambling was a distraction,” he said. “She began to gamble more and more. And she needed money.”
Jacobs lost her job and has been shamed by other members of the Squamish Nation, said Turner. “She has paid a price,” he said, adding she accepts responsibility for what she did and now lives off funds from a small pension.
Turner said Jacobs “would like to apologize through me for what she's done to the Nation. She understands the dynamic of an Indigenous person being charged with an offence against her own people.”
In finding Jacobs guilty of the fraud in November, the judge noted Jacobs requested and received 422 cheques during the time of the fraudulent scheme. Frequently after receiving the cheques, she would deposit a similar amount into personal bank accounts, said the judge. Banking records showed between April 2011 and May 2014, Jacobs and her husband brought in approximately $500,000 in legitimate income, yet spent about $880,000 in the same time period.
The judge has adjourned her sentencing decision until a later date.