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DH | Former head cashier to repay more than $115,500 stolen from Receiver’s Office

HomeLandenSint MaartenDH | Former head cashier to repay more than $115,500 stolen from...

PHILIPSBURG–Between May and August 2022, Lathasha Mills (43) stole more than US $115,500 of taxpayer money when she was head cashier at the Receiver’s Office.

On Thursday, the Court of First Instance ordered her to pay it all back and handed the suspected problem gambler 240 hours of community service and a conditional one-year prison sentence.

“I feel so sorry for what I’ve done,” a tearful Mills told the court during her trial on Thursday. “I really didn’t have a reason. It is something that just happened.”

As head cashier, the St. Peters resident was responsible for ensuring the money in the government’s cash registers matched the day’s incoming and outgoing payments.

She was also tasked with putting the money into a safe at the end of the balancing process. Instead, she slipped some of the cash into her purse and walked out the door.

Investigators concluded that Mills did this about three times a week, with an average haul of $2,800 each time. Government accounting bureau SOAB later determined that the theft totalled $115,563.21 over the four-month period.

Mills admitted her wrongdoing on August 30, 2022, in a meeting she had requested with her superiors. This was around the time a Tax Office employee filed a complaint about missing money.

Mills told the judge on Thursday that she cannot remember what she did with the stolen money because, at the time, she had been suffering from blackouts. She said these bouts of amnesia were caused by the intense stress she had been under because of family issues at home.

The judge found Mills’ story difficult to believe and asked if it was possible that she gambled it all away.

She based this question on the statement of a witness, who testified to being in the casino with Mills multiple times a week and who believed she had a gambling problem because she would continue playing even after they left.

The judge also read from a Probation Office report, which recommended that Mills undergo treatment at Turning Point Foundation for gambling addiction. The recommendation stemmed from Mills’ admission to a probation officer that she visits the casino four times a week and spends a minimum of $100 on each visit.

Mills denied telling the probation officer that she still goes to the casino, saying that was her past behaviour. “I used to gamble but not like that,” she said.

The defendant told the judge that she did not consider herself to have a gambling problem, but conceded that this could be a blind spot.

“If multiple people think I have problem, then maybe they’re not wrong,” Mills said. “Maybe they could see something I can’t.”

The prosecutor considered the charge of embezzlement as a civil servant proven and demanded 240 hours of community service and a one-year conditional prison sentence on three years’ probation. She also asked the judge to impose mandatory treatment at Turning Point Foundation and Mental Health Foundation (MHF) as special conditions.

Additionally, the prosecutor demanded that Mills repay all the stolen money to the government on penalty of jail time for non-compliance.

“[This theft – Ed.] is extremely bad because the money was supposed to be used for schools, playgrounds or whatever the country needed,” said the prosecutor.

The prosecutor told the court that forensic financial investigation into Mills and her relatives did not reveal that the stolen money had been deposited on their bank accounts or sent abroad.

“There is no other possibility than the defendant went to the casino or that the money was lost in blackouts,” said the prosecutor. “Either result is speculation, but what is a fact is that the money

was taken.”

Defence lawyer Sjamira Roseburg did not dispute her client’s guilt, but said the only question is what can be considered an appropriate punishment.

She emphasised her client’s personal circumstances in pleading for a reduced punishment, noting that the currently unemployed Mills is a first-time offender.

Mills was fired after the theft came to light. She had been a civil servant for more than 10 years before that, and had been in the position of head cashier for five years.

In her verdict, the judge found Mills guilty as charged and sentenced the former civil servant according to the prosecutor’s demands.

The judge told Mills that she should consider herself lucky with the prosecutor’s demands, as defendants are usually sent directly to jail for embezzling such large amounts of money. Instead, the prosecutor asked for a conditional prison term in Mills’ case. This means that she will avoid a prison cell if she abides by the conditions of her probation, which include mandatory treatment for gambling addiction.

As for the $115,563 in ill-gotten funds, Mills will have to spend three years in prison if she does not repay the total amount to the government, according to the ruling.

The judge said she doubted Mills’ story about blackouts. If the blackouts were true, the judge questioned why the defendant did not seek medical help the first time she noticed missing money.

“These things don’t just happen. These are choices you make,” the judge told Mills.

Bron: Daily Herald

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