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Ex-bookkeeper sentenced for $214K theft from Freshslice Pizza chain

'We’ve been friends; we’ve been family ... and you were able to betray me' said a fellow bookkeeper who discovered a $214,000 theft from the companies that operate Freshslice Pizza
A former bookkeeper has been sentenced for defrauding two companies behind the Freshslice Pizza chain. | Google Street View

A former Freshslice bookkeeper has been handed a two-year conditional sentence with a curfew for one year after defrauding the pizza-by-the-slice chain of more than $200,000.

Fatemeh Kazemzadeh Jartoudeh, 57, pleaded guilty in Vancouver provincial court Friday to one count of theft over $5,000.

She had originally been charged with two counts each of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000.

The charges stem from events in 2017, when Kazemzadeh defrauded RFSP Equipment and Operating Inc. and A & M Enterprises Ltd., which operate the Burnaby-based Freshslice Pizza chain, of more than $214,000, according to information presented at Friday's sentencing hearing.

Kazemzadeh lost all the money on day trading, which defence lawyer Michael Mines said she engaged in to take her mind off a cancer diagnosis she got in 2013.

"Essentially, she was trying to distract herself from her illness and its treatment," he said.

Kazemzadeh stole the money by making false invoice amounts and entries in the companies' accounting system and then paying them by cheque or etransfer to her own accounts, according Crown prosecutor Peter Campbell.

She also made double payments on legitimate invoices with a duplicate payment to her own account or simple diverted payments to her own account, leaving legitimate invoices unpaid, he said.

The thefts were discovered by the companies' office manager, Tamila Khayrullaeva, in May 2018, when Kazemzadeh was on vacation.

Khayrullaeva was at the hearing Friday.

"I came today with the main purpose to look at her face," Khayrullaeva told the court.

In a victim impact statement, she said she was a junior bookkeeper who reported directly to Kazemzadeh.

Khayrullaeva said she became "emotionally ill and totally drained" when she discovered the thefts and had to spend "hours and hours" analyzing the books and apologizing to clients about overdue and missing payments.

After her statement, she addressed Kazemzadeh directly.

"We’ve been friends; we’ve been family," she said, her voice emotional. "You’ve been in my house all the time. I gave you my secrets and you were able to betray me."

B.C. provincial court judge Paul Dohm said the case involved a breach of trust that would normally result in real jail time, but he agreed with Mines that the case involved "exceptional circumstances."

Mines noted Kazemzadeh had repaid $97,084.82 of the stolen money as part of a settlement after the companies sued her.

He also pointed to her guilty plea, her remorse and the fact it took the Crown three-and-a-half years after her arrest to approve charges against her – a period during which she was dealing with a second bout of cancer, according to Mines.

"She is very fragile; that’s my impression of her," he said.

Dohm agreed with the joint sentence proposed by Campbell and Mines and handed Kazemzadeh a two-year conditional sentence (a jail sentence served in the community).

Under the terms of the order, Kazemzadeh will be under a 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew for one year.

If she obtains any employment or volunteering position that involves handling money, she is required to show those organizations her conditional sentence order.  

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email [email protected]