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Vernon woman gets jail time for defrauding residents at local care home

Michelle Hampton was sentenced to 9 months jail for defrauding 26 clients out of thousands of dollars
Michelle Hampton, 55, was sentenced to nine months jail for defrauding residents at a care home she previously worked at out of thousands of dollars at the Vernon Law Courts Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. (Morning Star file photo)

A Vernon woman has been sentenced to nine months jail for defrauding numerous “vulnerable” residents out of thousands of dollars at a care home she worked at.

Michelle Hampton, 55, appeared before Justice Greg Koturbash at the Vernon Law Courts Wednesday, Oct. 4, roughly a decade after she committed the fraud. Hampton had pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 on Feb. 8 of this year.

The court heard that Hampton had been an employee at Down’s Residence, a place in Vernon for developmentally challenged adults, from 1997 to 2013. She was an activities coordinator from 2007 until she was terminated in 2013.

As an activities coordinator, Hampton was the sole person in charge of assisting clients at Down’s Residence with their finances, including depositing cheques, withdrawing money, paying bills, opening bank accounts and making small purchases.

Crown counsel Bill Hilderman told the court that between June 2010 and August 2013, Hampton signed cheques for 26 Down’s residents and deposited the funds to her own joint bank account. All told, she stole just shy of $38,ooo from Down’s residents.

Hilderman, reading the agreed statement of facts, said Hampton had been using the money to support a drug addiction.

In 2013, while Hampton was absent from work, a Down’s resident was brought to the bank by another staff member. There he noticed that the balance in his account had declined substantially and he had no idea how that could be. Suspicions arose when it was found that his bank card had been used to purchase gas when he doesn’t drive or own a car.

The RCMP were contacted and began an investigation, though that investigation “moved along very slowly for whatever reason,” Hilderman noted.

Hilderman characterized the fraud victims as being “the poorest of the poor,” as a small amount of money from the government each month was generally their only income.

“It was significant for them,” he said, adding Hampton had pilfered funds from more than 200 cheques over the course of three years.

Hilderman read three victim impact statements, the first from a Down’s resident who had hoped to move to the Cayman Islands but could no longer do so because of the funds taken by Hampton.

“Even though it was a dream to move back to the Cayman Islands, it was a dream that was stolen by Michelle. I trusted her with all my money and she abused me. It makes me sad to think that someone would do this to me,” Hilderman said, quoting the victim impact statement.

Hilderman noted the victims were “very vulnerable,” given that many had disabilities and needed to be able to trust Hampton with managing their financial affairs.

Hilderman conceded that Hampton has taken responsibility for the offence “and says she feels awful for her actions.”

Defence counsel Claire Mastop reiterated that Hampton was remorseful “right away” and had already written several apology letters to past co-workers.

Mastop pointed to Hampton’s guilty plea as a mitigating factor, saying it would have been “incredibly hard” to prove some of the allegations against her had the case gone to trial.

Mastop said her client has reached a place of “relative stability” mental health-wise since the offence and no longer uses drugs. It was also noted that Hampton was dealing with undiagnosed PTSD at the time of the offence.

She noted the “amazing amount of time that has passed” since the offence, and Justice Koturbash agreed that the amount of time passed was “extraordinary,” and that Hampton has “lived under a cloud” over the past decade.

Mastop said Hampton would like to “return to the public what she took” but may not be able to do that as she no longer works due to anxiety.

Koturbash asked if a doctor had told Hampton she couldn’t work. Mastop said Hampton’s doctor has left it to her to decide what she can and can’t do. Koturbash acknowledged Hampton’s remorse but noted that she didn’t make an effort to work and save money for restitution.

However, in the 11th hour, Hampton’s lawyer said her client had a pension worth roughly $30,000 that could be used to pay restitution.

Koturbash acknowledged that Hampton has taken “positive steps to turn her life around,” but said she “committed a very serious breach of trust.”

Offered the chance to speak before sentencing, Hampton apologized in court for what she’d done.

Hampton’s nine month jail sentence will be followed by 12 months of probation. She was also ordered to pay restitution to the victims or their estates in the case that they are now deceased, which the Crown noted is the case for some of the defrauded residents.

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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