By , Winnipeg Sun

First posted: Tuesdavidday, November 29, 2016 06:24 PM CST | Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 06:04 AM CST

She stole more than $900,000 from her credit union employer then lost it all feeding a crippling gambling addiction.

But a personal history marked by tragedy, an anxiety disorder and possible bi-polar disorder was not enough to keep Rosalie Gurske out of prison, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Gurske has had “a sad life… but that is not a reason to steal,” Judge Murray Thompson said before sentencing Gurske to 42 months in prison. “She is still responsible for her actions.”

Court heard Gurske, 51, was a supervisor with the Crosstown Civic Credit Union`s Winnipeg Square branch and was responsible for its daily cash supply. Over the course of six years, ending in January 2013, Gurske diverted cash from the credit union`s treasury accounts into her own hands and manipulated ledger records to cover her tracks.

Gurske, who had sole access to her branch`s locked treasury funds cultivated a relationship with her manager so she would know whenever there would be a “surprise” audit and then manipulated ledger records accordingly, Crown attorney Mandy Ambrose told court.

“This was a system created by the accused whereby she transferred funds from one treasury account to another to conceal from her employer the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing,” Ambrose said. “This was a sophisticated, calculated crime of opportunity.”

The thefts came to light after the credit union’s chief financial officer, preparing for a year-end audit, discovered an “unusually large” level of cash holdings at the Winnipeg Square branch, at least on paper. Further examination revealed the branch’s treasury deposits totalled just $34,000.

When questioned, Gurske claimed a large amount of money had been transferred by armoured car to another branch, but could provide no receipt. In fact, Gurske stole $100,000 from an armoured car delivery to her branch that same day.

Gurske spent all the money gambling, not on lavish personal expenditures, said defence lawyer David Walker.

“Her addiction is a chronic brain disease, not a moral failing,” Walker said.

Gurske was indoctrinated into gambling as a child by her bingo-playing parents, Walker said. An anxiety disorder and bi-polar disorder, only recently diagnosed, were likely factors in suicide attempts while an adolescent and adult.

When Gurske was 24, her brother and nephew were killed by a drunk driver on the way to her house, a tragedy for which she never sought counselling, Walker said.

Walker argued the “exceptional circumstances” of Gurske’s life justified a probationary sentence.

“My client’s purpose was to feed her addiction, her mental illness,” Walker said. “Now properly diagnosed and medicated, she is able to control her feelings and actions.”

Gurske told court she wished she had sought out help earlier.

“Gambling got me through feeling low and having horrible thoughts,” she said. “I now know that was the worst decision I ever made.”

Dpritchard@postmedia.com