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Getting caught 'blessing in disguise' for woman sentenced in Burnaby credit card crime

Karolina Stulec, 43, has been handed one year of probation for helping drain $22,000 from a stranger’s line of credit in 2019.
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Karolina Stulec was charged with fraud over $5,000 and personation with intent to gain advantage in Jan. 25, 2021.

A 43-year-old woman who helped drain $22,000 from a stranger’s line of credit using a stolen debit card in Burnaby, Vancouver and Richmond said getting caught was the wake-up call she needed to start addressing her drug addiction.

Karolina Stulec was charged with fraud over $5,000 and personation with intent to gain advantage in Jan. 25, 2021.

The charges relate to incidents in late 2019.

On Nov. 23, 2019, police got a report of a wallet stolen from a vehicle in Delta, according to Delta Police.

A Royal Bank of Canada debit card from that stolen wallet was then used in fraudulent ATM transactions in multiple Lower Mainland cities, a Delta Police spokesperson told the NOW.

On Tuesday, Stulec pleaded guilty in Vancouver provincial court to the lesser charge of possessing a credit card knowing it was obtained by an offence.

Crown prosecutor Ryan Elias said police had caught up with Stulec after an investigation turned up photographs of Stulec and another unidentified woman, who had together withdrawn a total of $22,000 with the RBC card.

“It wasn’t a sophisticated fraud,” Elias said. “The two women had (the victim’s) PIN, although (the victim) isn’t sure how they would have had that, so they simply attended at bank machines and tellers and withdrew cash directly from the line of credit.”

The victim was eventually “made whole” by RBC, according to Elias.

In a joint sentencing submission, Elias and articling student Wesley Solmon called for a suspended sentence with one year of probation.

“In my submission, that sufficiently protects the public and reflects both the gravity of the offence, by giving her a criminal record, but also the progress that she’s made on her own initiative,” Elias said.

Elias said he had told Stulec’s lawyers last summer that the Crown would seek jail time if Stulec didn’t “show real progress” in her recovery for her drug addiction.

“And she has done that,” Elias said.

Solmon presented a glowing letter from the Elizabeth Fry Society, which said Stulec had been an “inspiration to other clients” during her three months in recovery with that organization.

Solmon said Stulec had worked as a peer support worker and wants to keep pursuing that field and go back to school.

He said Stulec, who had no previous criminal record, has struggled with addiction on and off for about 20 years after falling in with the “wrong crowd” as a teenager.

Stulec told the court she was sorry for what she had done, but said the experience has been “a little bit like a blessing in disguise.”

“It took that to get me to wake up,” she said.

Judge Elisabeth Burgess accepted the joint submission and handed Stulec a suspended sentence with one year of probation, during which she must attend drug treatment as directed, not possess credit cards or identification documents that aren’t in her name and stay away from her victim.

Burgess said Stulec was getting a “significant break on sentence.”

“But I’m satisfied that you have earned it,” Burgess said.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor

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