Decision today in restaurant manager trial

A Crown prosecutor called accused thief Lana Korol's story about being naively led into a botched insurance scam by her boss and then ending up the victim -- "simply incredible."

Prosecutor Bernie Caffaro urged B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Grist to find Korol guilty of theft over $5,000 in his closing argument Tuesday.

Justice Grist will decide today whether Korol is guilty of stealing more than $65,000 from the downtown Boston Pizza restaurant she managed eight years ago. It is the second trial for Korol.

Caffaro contended that Korol began taking money from the restaurant, and covering her tracks, late in 2003 and into January 2004 until she was confronted by her boss, Kurt Gardner.

"Her core claim that Kurt Gardner would have found it worthwhile to involve her in an insurance fraud and enlist her help doesn't hold up to scrutiny," Caffaro said.

The prosecution said Korol ripped off her employer and then gambled away the stolen money.

In his closing arguments, defence lawyer Eric Warren said for Korol to be found guilty Justice Grist must disbelieve her evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

"My friend has presented a circumstantial case that on its face shows Ms. Korol misappropriated a very large amount of money," he acknowledged.

But Warren said Sara Gardner, the director of operations, and Kurt Gardner could have taken the money and blamed it on Korol.

Warren said Boston Pizza employees who testified may mistakenly attribute blame to Korol after the fact.

"They all know Ms. Korol is charged with theft and believe she's guilty. The activity they saw that seemed suspicious appears now to fit with those allegations."

Korol has criminal convictions in Alberta stemming from a gambling addiction. The Crown alleges she squandered the stolen restaurant money at Lake City Casino something Kurt Gardner testified that she confessed to him in a tearful apology.

"There is no video of her in the casino showing her gambling with large amounts of money," Warren said. "There's no evidence of her being found with large amounts of money in her possession."

Earlier, Korol's boyfriend, Jason Will, testified the couple met Kurt Gardner by chance at a Kelowna nightclub three years ago more than three years after the alleged crime.

He said Gardner was excessively friendly, chatting for 30 minutes to the couple. Only later he learned it was the Boston Pizza owner who accused Korol of stealing his money.

As he left, Will testified, Gardner told Lana, "'Oh, by the way, good luck in court and no hard feelings.'

"I couldn't believe it. He's accusing her of stealing $70,000 and sits with her. I found it kind of odd."

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