Compassionate Chip Theft Earns Former Casino Worker Conditional Sentence

Written By Jose Colorado on December 13, 2022
bc casino worker avoids jail time after stealing chips to fund brother's cancer treatment

A heart-wrenching legal case involving a former Grand Villa Casino Burnaby employee has officially wrapped.

Kim Shing Leung – a worker at the establishment – was spared prison for stealing thousands of dollars in gambling chips to help pay his brother’s medical expenses. At the time, Leung’s brother had late-stage cancer. Thus, Leung’s theft was a last-ditch effort to help him survive.

Regardless, the courts have ruled the family man must now pay back some of the money (plus a few other conditions). Assuming he does, he will be free to go.

Leung worked at Grand Villa for 13 years. Despite the risk he took, his brother did not survive.

Strenuous circumstances were aplenty, making Leung’s actions more understandable, said defence lawyer Julia Hung.

“His older brother was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, and Mr. Leung felt he needed to provide his brother financial support, as the treatments were quite expensive.”

Sentence: repay money, apologize and avoid the casino

Leung’s thefts occurred between Jan.1 – May.10, 2020.

Originally, theft over $5,000 was the charge. The sentencing hearing changed that to theft under $5,000. Ultimately, Leung plead guilty to the latter charge.

Once discovered, the Grand Villa fired Leung immediately, noted Crown prosecutor Sharon Preston.

“It came to light that he was seen taking gambling chips from the table and placing them in his pocket.”

As per his sentencing, Leung will now have to complete the following tasks:

  • Payback $2,500
  • Write an apology letter
  • Stay away from the casino

Conditional discharge granted for outstanding character

In the end, the biggest win is Leung’s freedom.

Initially, the Crown – alongside the other noted stipulations – pushed for a 12-month suspended sentence. However, Leung’s defence lawyer countered with a conditional discharge.

The distinction is critical. With the latter sentencing, Leung wouldn’t have a criminal record (assuming he abides by the other conditions).

In theory, this should make it easier to find work moving forward. Hung noted Leung had also suffered “collateral consequences” such as shame, job loss and difficulty finding new employment.

BC provincial court Judge James Sutherland accepted that assertion, saying Leung’s discharge wasn’t contrary to the public interest.

He added the defendant “has a lot to offer the community if the doors of opportunity are open.”

The Grand Villa Burnaby did not respond to PlayCanada for comment by the time of publication regarding Leung’s sentencing.

Community service, counselling impress authorities

Judge Sutherland stopped short of completely absolving Leung of his actions, however.

He noted employee theft as a “very serious offence.”

Yet, in the same breath, the judge acknowledged Leung’s lack of criminal record and efforts to rehabilitate.

For instance, before his sentencing hearing, Leung had enrolled in counselling sessions at his own expense.

In addition, the married man put in roughly 100 hours of community service with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank and Oceanwise Shoreline Cleanups.

Even crown prosecutor Preston seemed impressed.

Consider Preston said she usually would have called for jail time or a conditional sentence in employee theft cases.

But Leung had presented an unusual case since he had taken “real steps” to make up for his mistakes. Of course, the reasoning behind the theft was another consideration.

Low wages behind Grand Villa Casino Burnaby 2018 strike

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment operates Grand Villa Casino Burnaby.

In recent years the gaming conglomerate’s Canadian growth has been expansive.

Today the company owns 28 gaming properties in British Columbia and Ontario, including its most recent  Wasaga Beach addition. Edmonton, Alberta, also has a pair of establishments.

Nonetheless, large empires have bumps along the road.

To that end, one occurred at the Grand Villa Casino Burnaby back in 2018 – where Leung worked.

Consider Grand Villa employees voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike (88.6%) in Nov.2018. Luckily, the crisis was averted less than a month later when parties hatched a new four-year deal.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 derailed many of those plans – including substantial wage increases.

But it’s easy to see how employees – like Leung – could have been hurting at the time.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Jose Colorado

Jose Colorado is a British Columbia-based writer. He lives in Burnaby and loves sports, anime, writing, business and the occasional walk on the beach.

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