Former Sears Cornwall manager sentenced to house arrest and restitution

The entrance to the Cornwall Sears location on Monday, June 5, 2017. The former general manager of the store has been sentenced to six months of house arrest and over $7,000 in restitution for defrauding the store, as well as the one in Timmins, Ont. for nearly a year. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The former general manager of the Cornwall Sears location has been sentenced to house arrest and restitution for a “scheme” to steal money from the department store for nearly a year.

Jonathan Cox, 35, was sentenced in a city courtroom this morning after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud under $5,000. He had originally been facing 10 counts of fraud under $5,000.

Cox will be on house arrest for six months, followed by two years probation.

In an agreed statement of facts, court heard how Cox had carried out his scheme by processing customers’ returns, without them there, for thousands of dollars and applied the credit to his personal debit card.

The frauds were carried out between December 2015 and September 2016 and the total amount that was taken was $7,258.29. The acts started at the Timmins, Ont. store and later at the Cornwall store when Cox started his GM duties.

There were additional cases where gift cards were fraudulently loaded and then later redeemed, sometimes for hair care services and chocolate.

Cox was caught by Sears Canada Inc. during an internal investigation when a gift card was loaded and then redeemed in the store for the same amount. He was immediately terminated and then the police were called, court heard.

Crown Attorney Michael Purcell said Cox’s actions were a “classic breach of trust,” especially in his position as a manager, and had been “concocted and executed.”

Cox’s lawyer, Ghislain Bourbonnais, had argued that Cox shouldn’t have to pay the $103.91, included in the Crown’s statement of facts, because it was money removed improperly from a health and safety account.

But the judge didn’t agree to his request.

Cox – a father of two – made a brief statement when given a chance to address the court.

“I would just like to apologize to the court and to anybody involved for any harm that may have come from this situation,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Judge Diane Lahaie took into account Cox’s plea as a mitigating factor, noting fraud trials are lengthy, requiring “a great number of days in a court where resources are scarce,” require a number of witnesses and have a high burden of proof.

Cox has no criminal record.

“This constitutes a breach of trust within an employment relationship. There was a time, not that long ago, where persons who were found guilty of these types of offences would never have avoided jail,” Lahaie said.

Lahaie took the $103 in smaller transactions as an aggravating factor “which appear to the court to be your attempts at trying out this type of maneuver in order to prepare yourself for the larger frauds that you perpetrated while you were in Cornwall.”

The judge said this was a lot of planning and premeditation.

As far as his sentence, Cox will be on absolute confinement for three months with an exception for three hours a week to do chores, such as groceries. The balance of the three months will have an overnight curfew (11 p.m. until 7 a.m.).

As for restitution, Cox will have to make minimum monthly payments of $238.50, with the first payment by July 15, until the entire amount is paid.

Judge Lahaie warned Cox several times during her sentencing, if he breached any of the conditions he could end up spending the balance of his sentence in jail.

Cox is currently living in Timmins, Ont.