A Winnipeg woman accused of pilfering from her dying niece’s medical trust fund fought back tears Wednesday as she defended herself on the witness stand
Sheryl Matheson, 43, told court she had done nothing wrong and went over every transaction from the account, providing detailed explanations for each one.
Matheson has pleaded not guilty to theft and fraud after she was accused of draining more than $30,000 from the account that she set up to help her niece, Jessica Bondar who was waiting a heart transplant.
Bondar, 19, died in April 2011, just weeks after Matheson was arrested.
Matheson told court Bondar was living with her when she first fell ill and spent thousands of her own dollars to pay for Bondar’s family to fly to and from Montreal as Bondar was receiving treatment in a Winnipeg hospital.
“I believe Jess had to go through 13 surgeries in 17 days,” Matheson testified.
Matheson said she even allowed Bondar’s family to stay at her East Kildonan house.
Court has heard that Matheson created a joint account between her and Bondar to pay for medical bills and other necessary items while she was in hospital. A fundraiser, organized by Matheson, raised thousands of dollars as well.
“Jess was in my care and she got sick, so I was responsible to be there for her,” Matheson said.
The Crown has argued that Matheson would use the account to pay for personal expenses: plane tickets, gas, pool supplies, and even to pay off her employer’s debt to local radio station for advertising.
For each questionable expense, however, Matheson gave reason: the plane tickets were to fly Bondar’s family to and from Montreal; the gas was for Matheson’s mother and other relatives to drive to see Bondar in the hospital; the pool supplies was a purchase of chlorine that Bondar’s mother agreed to since her kids were using Matheson’s pool.
Bondar’s mother even paid Matheson’s hydro bill with the account since Bondar’s family was practically living there, according to Matheson.
As for the advertising debt, Matheson said she used money from the trust account after her boss told her he would reimburse it all back and even pay extra for the trouble. Matheson told court it was standard practice.
“It wasn’t abnormal for me to expense bills and payments; I would always be reimbursed with a premium,” Matheson said.
Matheson claimed she even got the approval from her mother who was with her sister at the time.
Court has heard how the trial has divided the entire family.
“We lost our friends, we lost our family, they were picking sides,” a tearful Matheson said.
Jessica Bondar spoke to investigators before she died and gave a statement blaming her aunt for the entire ordeal. Testimony was also heard from Bondar’s father who also pointed the finger at Matheson.
Bondar’s mother, Charlotte Roy, originally blamed her sister as well; now three years later, Roy took to the witness stand this week to defend Matheson.
Crown attorneys are expected to cross-examine Matheson on Thursday. The defence is also expected to call Matheson’s mother to the stand.