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Superstore thief sentenced to jail

By: Dave Baxter

Posted: 01/24/2019 9:00 AM

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A former Superstore employee who pled guilty to stealing more than $12,000 worth of merchandise from the store where he worked will spend time behind bars for his crimes.

At a sentencing hearing in a Winnipeg courtroom on Tuesday afternoon Judge Julie Frederickson sentenced 48-year-old Joseph Papai to 90 days in custody, but also granted him a sentence that will allow him to serve his time on weekends.

Court heard Papai was part of the management team at the Superstore in Steinbach when he stole approximately $12,300 worth of merchandise from the store over 10 months.

Between Aug. 26, 2016 and June 26, 2017, Papai stole $9,700 worth of high-priced electronics from the store, then returned the items and credited himself, while also stealing another $2,600 worth of smaller items.

Crown attorney Kristee Logan argued Papai deserved time in custody because he broke the trust of his former employer, as she sought a six-month sentence.

Defence lawyer Janel UnRuh had recommended a suspended sentence and no jail time, arguing there were exceptional circumstances that led Papai to commit theft from his employer including addictions issues and financial trouble that saw his credit card debt climb to more than $60,000.

"I am an alcoholic and I have a problem with that unfortunately, and I am trying to better myself," Papai said while addressing the court on Tuesday.

Papai added that he believed his reputation had been destroyed after details of his guilty plea were published in The Carillon. After being fired from Superstore, Papai said he took another job at Red River Co-op but was released after the article’s publication.

Frederickson told Papai she believed he lacked insight when it came to understanding why he lost his job and was dealt a blow to his professional reputation.

"You talked about the newspaper article ruining your reputation but I don’t think you quite understand that you ruined your reputation," Frederickson said. "It was your actions that ruined your reputation, not any article that was published and I think that lack of insight comes through."

Frederickson added she saw no exceptional circumstances in the case that would justify Papai avoiding jail time.

"You certainly have sympathetic circumstances but not exceptional ones. When you didn’t satisfy your debt instead of taking additional law-abiding steps you stole from your employer, an employer you worked with for 26 years," Frederickson said.

Papai was also handed one year of supervised probation that will go into effect after he serves the 90-day sentence and was ordered to work 40 hours of community service and pay $12,300 in restitution to his former employer.

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