The former finance director of the Abbotsford Police Department has received a conditional two-year jail sentence after defrauding it of approximately $312,000.
As part of her sentence, Shelley Dallas Mickens — who appeared in a wheelchair July 31 at Vancouver Provincial Court — will be confined to house arrest for 18 months and pay a $400 victim surcharge, after pleading guilty in April 2022 to criminal fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust, between 2013 and 2016.
Crown prosecutor Leslie Fillingham explained the “extreme personal mitigating factors” that led to a joint sentencing submission between the Crown and Mickens’s lawyer Michael Evans.
Judge Andrea Brownstone heard how Mickens had developed a serious gambling addiction, as a result of alleged physical and mental abuse in her marriage and the death of her mother. Subsequent to being caught, Mickens, 64, lost both her legs due to complications from diabetes and has been in and out of the hospital.
Furthermore, Mickens has made “significant restitution” by repaying $285,000, Fillingham told the judge. That repayment is part of a 2020 B.C. Supreme Court order stemming from a civil proceeding brought by the City of Abbotsford. Mickens’s criminal charges only account for about $192,000 of misappropriated money.
Although nearby Alouette Correctional Centre for Women could accommodate Mickens, Fillingham said recent changes to the Criminal Code allow for house arrest terms should a person pose no threat to the safety of the community.
And, “because of her situation she won’t be monitored by electronic monitoring,” said Fillingham.
Little financial oversight of Mickens during fraudulent actions
Mickens came from a poor family but worked hard to gain an accounting diploma from Capilano College, Evans told the court.
A chartered professional accountant, Mickens was the department’s finance director for 16 years prior to her retirement in June 2016, the court heard.
Mickens reported only to the police chief and no one with an accounting background. Her primary duty was to track money from the City of Abbotsford to the department.
Fillingham underscored the gravity of Mickens’s crimes, as she took advantage of her significant powers.
“As finance director, she held a position of trust …and had access to cash …and abilities to make entries into electronic software,” said Fillingham.
“In carrying out this fraud, she took advantage of her senior managers’ lack of financial training,” said Fillingham.
However, in 2013 a new payroll administrator noticed some petty cash voucher irregularities, namely changes to filing codes for money Mickens sent to herself. Mickens lied to the administrator to cover up the misappropriation, the court heard.
Eventually, the administrator went to the chief, stating the vouchers always stopped when Mickens was out of the office. Shortly after, Mickens announced her retirement June 30, 2016 and the department launched an internal audit and approached Surrey RCMP to investigate.
Mickens, noted Evans, has always taken responsibility for her actions and was quick to repay the city.
“She self-excluded herself from casinos and took her life back,” despite her degrading health conditions, said Evans.
And, “She knows there’s no excuse for what she did,” said Evans, who added Mickens believes she has “one-sixteenth Aboriginal blood” and “one day hopes to connect to that culture.”
Brownstone clarified with Evans that Mickens was not seeking any special consideration for those family connections.
Following the lawyers’ statements, the judge also asked Mickens if she wished to speak to the court.
“I do feel great remorse and my lawyer has pretty much stated everything,” stated a tearful Mickens, who, during her sentence, may leave her home for seven hours a week for legal, medical or religious reasons and must restrain from alcohol and drug use. Mickens will also provide a DNA sample to police. Lastly, she was issued a lifetime prohibition of having authority over another person’s finances.
The Abbotsford Police Department did not issue a victim impact statement but the judge noted the impact on taxpayers.
“I think Ms. Mickens has learned a lot from this,” said Brownstone.