A scammer who stole $746,000 from retailer Clair de Lune by years of stealing the identities of a hundred employees benefited from Judge Karine Giguère’s leniency on Monday. Georgia Tzanetakos got off at home with a two-year sentence, a far cry from the three years in prison required by the Crown.
Posted at 12:23pm
Thanks to an elaborate scheme, the 61-year-old Laval resident spent years swindling her employer Clair de Lune, a retailer specializing in household items that has since gone bankrupt. Between 2008 and 2014, the company’s payroll clerk managed to divert the wages of 566 employees in her favor while stealing the identities of 124 employees.
Georgia Tzanetakos specifically targeted part-time or ex-employees and falsified their working hours in the wage system. She then deposited the stolen funds into 10 different bank accounts, some of which were in the names of her two children, her husband or even her assistant.
Clair de Lune owner Albert Levy filed a lawsuit in September 2014 when the fraud was exposed by an employee while Georgia Tzanetakos was on vacation. However, La Valloise was not charged until February 2020, four and a half years after the police investigation was completed, and “without reason”, according to the judge.
“To be faced with a sentence after so many years is a punishment in itself,” Judge Giguère concluded Monday morning at the Montreal courthouse. Even if these delays do not constitute a “mitigating circumstance”, as the judge specified, this circumstance seems to have been decisive for the leniency of the sentence imposed. The judge also noted the defendant’s admission of guilt, remorse and low risk of recidivism.
Georgia Tzanetakos claims she started stealing to pay off her debts and then moved on by getting a taste for the “lifestyle”. “Since there were no consequences, it continued,” the judge summed up. For the past several years, Georgia Tzanetakos has worked in accounting for another company without committing fraud, which the judge’s analysis says proves her risk of recidivism is zero. Since then she has lost her job.
Clair de Lune’s owner was skinned by the judge
Businessman Albert Levy was tormented by the judge, who accused him of “overdoing it” in court by blaming his ex-accountant for his company’s bankruptcy. Retailer Clair de Lune fled its creditors in 2014 and 2019, each for millions of dollars.
The Crown Attorney, Mr.e Nicolas Ammerlaan called for a three-year prison sentence given the complexity of the system, the scale and the length of the fraud. In addition, according to case law, fraud cases of more than half a million dollars generally carry three to five years in prison.
In cases of fraud, the judge should consider imposing a penalty in the community, if possible. However, numerous recent court cases show that this alternative to imprisonment is rarely granted in high-volume fraud cases, despite sincere remorse on the part of the accused.
Last Friday, Gyula Barta Jr., posing as a wealthy investor, was sentenced to three years in prison for a $500,000 fraud. Earlier this month, Karim Skakni, a former bank executive who defrauded vulnerable customers out of $235,000 over his gambling problems, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Last April, a former officer who stole $180,000 from a government assistance program for the elderly was sentenced to two years in prison.
Georgia Tzanetakos has to stay at home for the first 18 months of her sentence, except for work and shopping. She is placed on probation for three years and has to pay the victim $20,000 back.