Controller who cheated hotel out of $134K spared jail

Controller who cheated hotel out of $134K spared jail

A Winnipeg man who cheated his former hotel employer out of $134,000 has been spared jail and sentenced to three years supervised probation.

Christopher Banks, a former controller and accounts manager with Four Points by Sheraton Winnipeg South, previously pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud over $5,000.

Prosecutors had urged Judge Sandy Chapman to sentence Banks to 18 months in jail.

Chapman said Friday she was impressed by the "significant effort" Banks has made to rehabilitate himself and repay the money he took, and ruled a non-custodial sentence would meet the ends of justice.

Banks's fraud, committed over the course of nearly five years, was motivated by a gambling addiction, defence lawyer Kristen Jones told court at an earlier sentencing hearing.

Since his arrest, Banks has joined Gamblers Anonymous, undergone addictions counselling, and repaid more than $40,000, court heard. He also has a new job with an employer who is aware of his crime.

"I think it's beneficial to everyone to know that our court encourages rehabilitation, recognizes second chances and recognizes that where someone really turns their life around, we won't simply say the standard is you go to jail," Jones said.

Banks had been a long-time, trusted employee at the family-run hotel when, in early 2015, owner Tom Caramanos discovered a discrepancy in the hotel's petty-cash balance. Confronted with the shortfall, Banks admitted he had defrauded the hotel of $2,000 over the years, which he spent gambling.

Caramanos dug deeper and over the next several months uncovered a sophisticated web of fraud that threatened to financially cripple the hotel.

Banks, court was told, used his position as controller to increase his salary by $20,000 a year and wrote cheques to himself, effectively doubling his income. Banks also added fictitious employees to the payroll, then deposited their paycheques into his own account.

Banks used a company credit card to pay personal bills, speeding tickets and website subscriptions, court was told. 

Chapman imposed a three-year suspended sentence, meaning Banks could be ordered to serve a custodial sentence if he reoffends or breaches terms of his probation during that time period.

Chapman ordered that Banks write letters of apology to his victims; abstain from drugs, alcohol and gambling; and pay $44,000 in restitution.