Jail time for Surrey bookkeeper who stole millions from her employer

Ellen Norris,64, sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for bilking Megatech Engineering.

A woman who admitted to stealing millions from a Surrey engineering firm was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail last month.

Ellen Norris pleaded guilty in March to theft over $5,000 and was handed the prison term in New Westminster Supreme Court at the end of June. The reasons for sentence were just posted online this week.

Norris, who had worked as a bookkeeper at Megatech Engineering Ltd. since 1986, was accused of stealing $2.9 million from the company between May 2000 and September 2005.

The theft was discovered by happenstance, when a WorkSafe BC audit was conducted and the assessment officer noticed Norris’ income for 2004 was said to be $78,524, but the company’s payroll ledger showed it at $195,141.

A subsequent investigation showed Norris had, over the years, signed 577 cheques totalling more than $2.6 million that benefited her. There were payments to American Express of $1.2 million, to CIBC Visa of $532,000, to Diners Club of $371,000, and to two different MasterCards of $174,000 and $76,000. There were also other “miscellaneous” cheques totalling about $238,000.

The bills, according to court documents, showed thousands of dollars were spent on expensive clothing and jewelry on multiple occasions.

Norris also wrote cheques for her own salary of $589,665 over those years. At a salary of roughly $60,000, the Crown noted she overpaid herself by approximately $265,000.

When confronted by one of the company managers, Norris, who is now 64, confessed immediately and was fired in 2005.

A civil suit was launched against her and the company’s external accountant and the criminal proceedings were pursued in 2010.

The theft, according to the sentencing decision, caused considerable damage to Megatech and “threw it to the edge of bankruptcy.” The company specializes in custom steel fabrication, with clients including BC Ferries, mining companies and pulp mills throughout B.C.

“It was driven right to the wall, and the emotional impact on the principals who saw their pride and joy practically brought to a stumbling halt but then they recovered I suspect through their own strong and combined purpose,” said Justice Robert Crawford in his decision. “But the emotional upset of having someone they trusted to effectively torpedo their business was most evident.”

On top of the prison sentence, Crawford ordered she pay back more than $2.3 million to Megatech.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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