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Military judge orders suspended jail sentence, $3K fine for B.C. sailor who stole from shipmates

HMCS Regina is pictured in Victoria in October 2019. (CTV News) HMCS Regina is pictured in Victoria in October 2019. (CTV News)

A former Canadian navy sailor was handed a $3,000 fine and a suspended jail sentence Tuesday after pleading guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from his shipmates aboard a Pacific fleet frigate.

Petty officer first class Sheldon Riley, 45, was serving as the senior steward on HMCS Regina in 2019 when he wrote a pair of fraudulent cheques to himself from the ship's non-public funds account, a military court in Victoria heard.

The account was a shared pool of money that all crewmembers contributed to in order to purchase alcohol and host social functions while on deployment.

The combined value of the forged cheques was approximately $5,200. A subsequent search of the senior steward's office aboard the frigate turned up bundles of cash in the same amount, the court heard.

Riley came to the attention of investigators after he allegedly sought a $90,000 impress – a loan or line of credit that has to be repaid out of the pooled account – for alcohol and events during deployment.

The request was substantially larger than the usual deployment loan of between $2,000 and $4,000, the court heard.

'Stealing from your comrades'

The subsequent investigation found two cheques valued at $3,600 and $1,600 had been deposited from the ship's shared account into Riley's personal bank account. When HMCS Regina returned from deployment approximately eight months later in September 2019, the bundles of cash were discovered and seized.

"You wrote cheques to yourself with the intent to take from your brothers and sisters in arms," chief military judge Catherine Julie Deschênes summarized in her sentencing Tuesday. "Stealing from your comrades constitutes a breach of trust."

Those crewmembers provided an impact statement to the court through the ship's executive officer, describing how the unit's accounts were frozen in the wake of the theft, and the ship's annual holiday party was cancelled due to the lack of remaining funds.

"As of today, the ship still does not have full control of its NPF (non-public funds) accounts," the judge said, noting the ship only recently settled its tax bill with the Canada Revenue Agency in the wake of the theft.

Riley, a 22-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, was diagnosed with service-related post-traumatic stress disorder around the time of the incident, the court heard.

While the maximum penalty for theft in the military is 14 years in prison, the defence and prosecution asked the judge to suspend any prison term while Riley continues his mental health recovery.

"Your dishonest conduct had a detrimental and long-lasting effect on the ship's crew," the judge told Riley as she accepted the joint submission from his counsel and the Crown. "However, you did take responsibility when you pled guilty."

The 30-day jail sentence was ordered suspended following a probationary period and the $3,000 fine was ordered payable over 12 months starting in June. Top Stories

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