Edmonton man who stole his grandmother’s life savings sent to prison

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EDMONTON, ALTA: March 14, 2014 -- The Law Courts building which is where the Court of Appeal is located, for the Court of Appeal series in Edmonton, March 14, 2014. (Ed Kaiser - Edmonton Journal) stock photo STK_courthouse

An Edmonton man who stole his 96-year-old grandmother’s life savings, resulting in her being unable to afford basic necessities, was sentenced Friday to two years in prison

Jeffrey Stals, 52, was also ordered to pay $265,500 in restitution, after pleading guilty to a charge of theft over $5,000 while holding power of attorney.

Crown prosecutor Ryan Abrams told court Stals was given power of attorney over the affairs of his grandmother, Dzintara Stals, in 2005, after she was declared incapacitated due to a stroke.

Court heard she was well in 2014 when she discovered her grandson had issued eight cheques in the previous four years for his own benefit and without her permission.

The cheques totalled $265,500, leaving her with less than $2,500 in savings.

In a victim impact statement, Stals said she can’t understand how her grandson could “betray” her, after she took him in, paid for his schooling and gave him money to help his business

“My grandson stole my life from me. You can only imagine the heartbreak and devastation when I found out the truth,” she wrote.

“I came to this country fleeing the horrors and chaos of World War II in Latvia and, after starting over and a lifetime of hard work and diligent savings, I now face financial ruin due to the cruel, careless and selfish action of my grandson. He left me with nothing.”

She said she can no longer afford hearing aids, dental or eye care. She goes without basic necessities, such as underwear and socks, out of fear she does not have enough money. She constantly worries over whether she will be evicted once she can’t pay her bills.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Joanne Veit accepted a joint submission for the two-year sentence, noting a “significant” amount had been stolen which resulted in a “serious” effect on the victim.

The judge ordered that Stals never be allowed to be a financial agent for any person.

The victim’s granddaughter, Nicole Tremblay, also wrote a victim impact statement in which she said the theft of her grandmother’s life savings “wrecked” Stals and left her “suffering.”

Outside court, Tremblay said the sentence wasn’t long enough.

“There is no sentence that will give my grandmother her life back,” she said. “She will always feel the emptiness.”

Defence lawyer Robbie Davidson told court Stals used $180,000 of the stolen money for his company, Aqua-Tek Dive Shop, but said the business later failed and he declared bankruptcy.

A tearful Stals apologized in court, saying he has always loved his grandmother and was “very sorry.”

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