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A Salt Spring, BC woman has been banned from using the internet and placed under 18 months’ house arrest after she pleaded guilty to stealing $190,000 from her parents-in-law to pay internet gambling debts.
Defendant Joanne Villadsen sat impassively during sentencing as Judge Edward Brecknell read a victim-impact statement prepared by her father-in-law, Kent Villadsen: ‘I would never have dreamed that I could have been so betrayed by a trusted family member. I do not understand how she could steal our money, yet come and eat dinner with us and the rest of the family as if everything was okay; knowing full well the hardship the family was going through.’
‘Johnny Villadsen (Joanne’s husband) has recently informed the accused he wishes to seek a legal separation and divorce… He was betrayed as well,’ said Crown prosecutor Barb Penty. The two men run Villadsen Construction Ltd. and Kent Villadsen, 65, was hoping to retire prior to the theft of company assets that will force him to continue earning an income, Penty said. Court heard that Joanne Villadsen gained access to the cheque book for Villadsen Construction Ltd. during visits to her husband’s parents’ home.
There was a lengthy process to discover the full extent of numerous thefts that occurred between October 2000 and December 2001, she said. ‘Late in 2001, Mr. Villadsen Sr. noticed that his business account was out of money. He located three cheques ‘payable to J. Villadsen’ totalling $17,000 that he could not account for. He showed them to his son, who could not account for them either.’
‘As more cheques surfaced, he confronted Joanne Villadsen; and once again, she admitted to only as much as she was confronted with,’ Penty said. ‘Ms. Villadsen told them she had taken cheques while visiting for meals and while the children played on the computer.’ She also told her in-laws that she would repay the family from a trust fund and gave Kent Villadsen personal cheques that totalled $68,000. As an explanation for Joanne Villadsen’s theft from her family, defence counsel Lois Phillips indicated that the woman suffered from an internet gambling affliction that consumed almost all of the money. ‘One day she saw it and the next day she was hooked.’ Joanne Villadsen was under treatment for a bipolar disorder (manic-depressive) and she was suicidal before she began internet gambling. She became suicidal once again when the crime was discovered, Phillips said.
Support letters from friends also indicated that varying dosages of Paxil medication, used to treat her bipolar disorder, may have contributed to her crimes. A psychologist’s report also indicated that Villadsen believed her doctor was responsible for giving her an incorrect dosage of Paxil, that caused her to spiral out of control. After deliberation, Judge Breknell determined that Joanne Villadsen would serve 18 months’ house arrest, three additional years of probation and pay full restitution of the remaining $122,457.83 to Kent and Inge Villadsen.
Conditions of the 24-hour house arrest include mandatory counselling and bans of alcohol, non-prescribed drugs, gambling and use of the internet. ‘No lottery tickets, pull tabs, bingo, nothing,’ Brecknell said. Joanne Villadsen will only be permitted to leave her home for purposes of employment and counselling along with one two-hour period per week, he said. She was also ordered to repay the family at a rate of $400 per month and refrain from all contact with Kent and Inge Villadsen apart from settlement of the restitution order.
‘I can only say that the comment Mr. Villadsen made in his victim-impact statement should ring in your ears while you are serving this sentence.’