A provincial court judge has requested a psychiatric report to find out if a former Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) councillor had a gambling addiction at the time she committed a large-scale fraud, taking close to $1 million from the band.
Judge Lyndsay Smith was to hand down a sentence Wednesday (June 15) in North Vancouver provincial court to former band councillor and department head Krisandra Jacobs, 57, who was found guilty in November of fraud and theft from the Squamish Nation.
But Smith told lawyers in court Wednesday morning she was concerned that reports into Jacobs’s circumstances didn’t mention gambling addiction as a potential factor in the case, despite it being raised by her defence lawyer and by members of the RCMP’s economic crimes unit who gave evidence in the case. “Corporal Smith of the RCMP economic unit did testify about rumours of Ms. Jacobs attending casinos,” said the judge.
Smith noted that a 17-page spreadsheet entered as an exhibit in the case tracked ATM locations where Jacobs had made hundreds of cash withdrawals in close proximity to casinos between 2011 and 2014 – the time she committed the fraud against the Squamish Nation.
Hundreds of cash withdrawals near casinos
“It shows hundreds of withdrawals near or at gambling establishments during these years,” said Smith.
In April 2011, for instance, Jacob made 35 withdrawals at ATMs near or at a casino in Burnaby, said Smith. During the same month, she made nine withdrawals at ATMs near the Hastings racetrack in Vancouver, said the judge. Between January 1 and April 30, 2012 Jacobs withdrew cash from an ATM near the Burnaby casino 37 times and at the racetrack four times, said Smith. Between September and November 2012 there were 47 withdrawals from the Burnaby casino location, noted Smith. A snapshot of early 2013 showed 16 withdrawals from the Burnaby casino and 15 at the Hastings racetrack in the month of February, said the judge, adding, “That pattern does not dissipate throughout 2013.”
Smith said that evidence doesn’t reflect the assertion of a Gladue report into Jacobs’s Indigenous background, which said she had no addictions.
'Pathological gambling' can factor in sentencing
Noting that “pathological gambling” has been recognized in recent fraud cases as a disorder that could impact an offender’s judgment, Smith told lawyers she was ordering a pre-sentence psychiatric report before sentencing Jacobs, to determine whether Jacobs had any medically recognized disorder that might have contributed to her offences.
Crown prosecutor Jim Bird has asked for a four-year jail sentence for Jacobs, describing her position of trust within the Nation as an aggravating factor in the case.
At the time of the fraud, between April 2011 and May 2014, Jacobs was one of two people in charge of an emergency fund of last resort for Nation members in need.
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.
Fraud has long-term impact on Squamish Nation
In an earlier victim impact statement written on behalf of the Squamish Nation, spokesperson Khelsilem said Jacobs’s fraud will have a long-term impact on the Nation, saying “we will never recover the loss.”
Jacobs’s 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.”
A court date to consider the additional pre-sentence report has been adjourned by the judge until at least the end of August.