Admin officer jailed over $200K fraud

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Admin officer jailed over $200K fraud

Employees are a company's greatest asset... but they can also be a major source of financial loss, as one company found out the hard way...

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An administrative officer who stole almost $200,000 from her employer over three years has been sentenced in the County Court of Victoria to six months of jail.

Judge Smallwood described Katrina Webster's conduct in stealing from her employer as a 'prolonged breach of trust'.

Background


Ms Webster's stole money between 2013 and 2016 from her employer, Modern Roof Restorations, a company that specialised in window shutters, roofing and solar services.  While the company is headquartered in South Australia, it has branches elsewhere in Australia and Ms Webster was employed as an administrator in Victoria. Her duties included reporting on weekly financials, receiving and recording cash and cheque payments, recording of bank payments, and banking weekly takings. She would keep some cash in a locked drawer as part of her duties until she completed her banking administration and then she would then take cash to the bank. 

In May 2016, the employer's financial controller noticed banking discrepancies – a customer’s account was marked as unpaid to just under $5,000, however, it had been confirmed that no monies were outstanding. A physical search for the money was made without success. A full financial audit was then undertaken which revealed three false transactions. When Ms Webster was confronted, she confessed that she “just couldn’t stop” and did not know how much money had been taken. 

Her offences involved 85 separate transactions and she stole $199,892.

Financial difficulties


Ms Webster began stealing after her family got into financial difficulties. The family business collapsed in 2009 and her husband filed for voluntary bankruptcy. Her husband was then unemployed and suffering with knee problems that required several surgeries. She was the sole income earner for the family and found that she was struggling to pay rent and other outgoings. 

While she claimed that she was only going to borrow the money, Judge Smallwood noted that there was no evidence suggesting that any monies were ever repaid. 

Consideration and sentence


Commenting on Ms Webster’s offending, the judge remarked that “over a period of some three years… you have breached the trust of your employer, and stolen. It is a prolonged breach of trust, and clearly, efforts were made by you to conceal it successfully. What might be said about the company's methods of accepting payment might be another matter, but the fact of the matter is you took advantage of that situation.”

Judge Smallwood sentenced Ms Webster to six months' prison and directed that she be assessed for a community corrections order. If she was found to be acceptable for a community corrections order, it would run for 18 months, would be recorded as a conviction and would include the conditions of drug treatment and rehab, mental health treatment and rehab, and supervision.

Case


DPP v Webster [2017] VCC 1825 
 

Authors


Dhruv Saggar with additional reporting by Jim Wilson
 
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