Former South Arm worker repays association $100,000 for theft

A “serious gambling disorder” has earned former South Arm Community Association worker Robert Yoneda an 18-month conditional sentence.

The 39 year old appeared in Richmond provincial court on Wednesday, where Judge Ray Low sentenced Yoneda, who had pleaded guilty to embezzling $153,713.96 from the association.

Yoneda’s lawyer, Vincent Michaels, said his client immediately took responsibility for his actions shortly after the funds were discovered missing and he was confronted.

He’s currently working three jobs to make amends, and with his family’s help, has repaid about two-thirds of what he stole.

“He admitted his responsibility to his association, the day after he was confronted,” Michaels told The Richmond Review.

“At the end of the day he took advantage of lax quality controls,” Michaels said in court. The City of Richmond was in fact part of the approval process for the very checks that he embezzled, he added.

Over a five-year period, Yoneda forged signatures on cheques, created falsified documents and used a company credit card to pay off “bookies” he had become in debt to from his sporting bets.

A psychiatric diagnosis was presented by counsel, declaring Yoneda had a gambling disorder.

Yoneda’s initial gambling problem began in the mid ‘90s with sports betting, particularly NFL football games, court was told.

Crown counsel Todd Follett presented a $100,000 cheque to a representative of the South Arm Community Centre Association on behalf of Yoneda and his family. The Yoneda family plans to repay the remaining $53, 713.96 sooner rather than later, the court was told.

Micheals agreed that the situation was a breach of trust and that the offence was committed from substantial gambling addiction.

“The matter of theft was not a sophisticated one. My client struggled with gambling for 10 years before he stole from his employer,” said Michaels.

Yoneda’s 18-month conditional sentence includes 6 months of house arrest—where he can’t leave his home except for work and emergencies—followed by a six-month curfew of 10 p.m., and concludes with 100 hours of community service to be completed in the final half year. He also received a three-year term of probation.

Yoneda had no previous criminal record and before delivering his sentence, Judge Low noted that Yoneda demonstrated genuine repent toward the South Arm Community Association and the greater community.  “I’m very remorseful and very sorry to the City of Richmond, South Arm Community association, my friends and family that this occurred,” said Yoneda.

Yoneda had nearly a dozen friends and family members present to support him. During a court intermission, Crown council expressed that the group’s support may influence the judge’s decision that there is a strong and healthy road to recovery for Yoneda’s gambling disorder.

According to the psychiatric report, Yoneda remains at risk to commit gambling offence again, but if he is counseled and monitored his disorder can remain under control.

—with files from Martin van den Hemel

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