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Gambling addiction behind former Squamish Nation councillor’s fraud, says lawyer

Defence seeks two-year sentence for woman convicted of defrauding First Nation out of $856,695.23
The opening of Chances casino in Squamish coincided with the beginning of a former Squamish Nation council co-chair’s gambling habit, her lawyer told BC Provincial Court Wednesday

A history of depression and a marriage breakdown, coinciding with the opening of a casino, led former Squamish Nation council co-chair Krisandra Lenore Jacobs to defraud the band of almost $1 million, according to her defence lawyer.
Jacobs, 57, was convicted last November of fraud over $5,000 for cashing more than 400 cheques between April 2011 and May 2014 from the band’s emergency funds. BC Provincial Court Judge Lyndsay Smith heard the Crown wants Jacobs to pay back $856,695.23 and serve a four-year sentence in prison, while defence lawyer John Turner asked for a two-year sentence.

“Things were not going well for her and she began to gamble,” Turner told the court Wednesday. “We know that the Squamish Nation has an interest in the [Chances] casino in Squamish and my recollection is that was inaugurated around 2010, just about the time she began getting involved in gambling. She said it was a distraction and excitement, and she began to gamble more and more and needed money.”

Turner said she also gambled in Burnaby’s Grand Villa Casino, but Smith paused his submissions because she said she did not recall a gambling addiction being evidence at trial. After a break, Turner said he would not use the submission on the gambling addiction to seek a lighter sentence, but instead to inform the court of Jacobs’ circumstances.

Turner said Jacobs suffered the public shame of losing her job as department head and her seat on council, and is now living on $500 to $600 a month. He said she is expressing “heartfelt” remorse. When Smith asked if Jacobs would address the court, Turner intervened and declined on her behalf.

The court heard from a victim impact statement compiled by Squamish Nation council chair Dustin Rivers, also known as Khelsilem, that said Jacobs’ crime divided the community and caused intergenerational harm. “This cycle of theft and distrust must be broken,” read the statement.

Bird said that Jacobs was in a position of trust as both an employee and an elected official and she used her business sophistication in a premeditated fashion. But, he conceded, there is “little chance of any restitution.”

“This money is money that came from leasehold land owned by the Squamish nation,” he said. “And it reflects one of the main goals not only of Canada, but First Nations communities throughout Canada, and that's to make these communities self-sufficient. They can stand on their own.”

At the end of the hearing, Smith spoke directly to Jacobs, telling her, “It’s a long road, it’s not quite over.” She would need another 90 minutes of court time to deliver her sentencing judgment at a date to be determined after June 6.