By Peggy Revell
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A sentence of 90 days to be served on weekends and three years probation was handed down Wednesday to a Redcliff man who stole nearly $30,000 from a local before-and-after-school program.
“Our society is based on things being supported by trust,” said Judge Dietrich Brand during sentencing of 42-year-old Scott Schuett at the Medicine Hat Provincial Courthouse.
Theft while in a position of trust undermines this “approach to life,” said Brand.”It’s young children who are losing out, who have lost in this particular case,” he added.Despite this, there is still room to make adjustments in a sentence for exceptional circumstances, he said, although not everything is an exceptional circumstance.As noted in the agreed statement of facts, Schuett’s wife had been in charge of IF Cox’s before-and-after-school program for a decade, while Schuett voluntarily provided the bookkeeping services.
The school’s principal noticed that the program was making quite a bit of money, so decided the accounts should be reviewed a certified accountant was hired to audit the program. This led to a discovery that a majority of cash payments were not being deposited.
In total, from August 2013 to June 2015, it was found that Schuett had taken $29,856.07 from the program.
Both Schuett and his wife were dismissed by the IF Cox Parent Advisory Association, which oversees the program independently from the school division. The association has since made policy and procedural changes as a result of the theft.Alongside covering the costs of the program, the funds would have gone toward playground equipment, field trips and additional programming for children. In making sentencing arguments, the Crown asked for a total of 12 months jail, plus probation citing the position of trust that Schuett was in, and need for denunciation and deterrence.”This was systematic, it was done in a way to avoid detection,” said the Crown, adding that the theft continued until the accused was caught.Defence requested 90-day sentence, to be served on the weekends, alongside probation.
“It wasn’t so he could support a lavish lifestyle,” said defence counsel Sara Lewans, noting that Schuett was under financial distress at the time, including supporting a father with dementia. Schuett is “truly sorry for his actions,” said Lewans, and he wants to keep working to make restitution part of why an intermittent sentence was requested. Schuett was co-operative with police from the beginning, she said, and he also has wanted to plead guilty from the start.An intermittent and lower sentence was also requested due to “exceptional circumstances” including how Schuett’s wife greatly depends on him due to medical conditions, how his employer relies on Schuett due to his own health issues. Personal health circumstances, as well as how Schuett helps care for his father is also a factor.Schuett already has $10,000 toward restitution, with his probation requiring monthly payments to pay back the full amount taken.