Former employee of Kelowna payday loans company accused of stealing $35k – Kelowna News

Former employee of Kelowna payday loans company accused of stealing k – Kelowna News

A former employee of a now-defunct payday loans company in Kelowna is on trial this week for allegedly stealing more than $35,000 from her employer and their clients.

Melanie Robertson, 45, is facing charges of theft and fraud over $5,000 and her trial began earlier this week. Robertson worked at EasyCash Inc. in Kelowna from 2018 to late 2019. The company had a Kamloops and a Kelowna location, but both have since closed down.

During her time at EasyCash, the Crown alleges Robertson entered fraudulent payday loans in the business’ system, under existing client accounts, and took the cash for herself. Robertson concedes that the fraudulent activity occurred, but denies she was the one behind it.

Wednesday, EasyCash co-owner Daljit Sadhra testified the fraudulent transactions involved 59 EasyCash clients, and were all made under Robertson’s User ID. He also said that from Sept. 6, 2019 until the branch’s closure on Oct. 31, 2019 – during which a number of the fraudulent transaction were made – Robertson was the only employee who worked at the Kelowna location.

Sadhra said the fraud couldn’t have been done remotely, as the funds were taken in cash.

While he and his business partners Jason and Allison Kreut, who all live in Kamloops, were also part of the business’ operations at this time, Sadhra said there would be no reason for them to defraud themselves.

“This is my money, it’s my cash and Jason’s cash,” Sadhra said, adding that they had to pay their clients back with their own funds.

Sadhra said they closed down their Kamloops location in the spring of 2019, and the Kelowna location followed suit later that year. The closures were unrelated to the fraud. But while they “winded down” operations at the Kelowna store, they began collecting on outstanding, overdue loans in their system. This included directly debiting clients’ bank accounts, which sometimes resulted in Non-Sufficient Funds fees.

In December 2019, Sidhra began receiving angry phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from clients who discovered money had been taken from their bank account, despite having no outstanding loans with the company.

“People started calling, we had upset clients,” Sidhra testified. “They were threatening and very serious phone calls.”

Customers were accusing EasyCash of fraud, and one customer wrote to EasyCash on Facebook to say: “I’m going to contact the police for fraud.”

In a subsequent statement to police, Sidhra said, “I received threats, people were thinking that we’d left the country because the store is now closed … they’re thinking we tried to take their money out of their account and we’d taken off with it.”

Sidhra noted that EasyCash eventually returned all the money to their clients, along with any additional charges they accrued.

The trial is expected to wrap up this week. It’s not clear if Robertson plans to testify in her defence.