Woman faces jail for stealing $750,000 from employer

The 45-year-old, who has interim name suppression, appeared in the Hamilton District Court today. Photo / File
The 45-year-old, who has interim name suppression, appeared in the Hamilton District Court today. Photo / File

A Waikato woman has admitted stealing $750,000 from her employer over five years.

The 45-year-old, who has interim name suppression, appeared in the Hamilton District Court today and admitted a charge of false accounting and one representative charge of theft by a person in a special relationship between 2009 and 2015.

When a client changed accountants she saw 91 thefts between August 12, 2009 and October 29, 2015, involving redirection of $750,775.54 into four of the woman's own bank accounts.

The woman's former employer, through its lawyer Michael Black, today successfully applied for permanent name suppression from Judge Christopher Field to protect its client base.

The woman, who faces a jail term, had worked at the firm for 10 years before a merger in 2009 and was understood to have been a trusted member of staff.

She was responsible for preparing annual accounts and filing GST and tax returns and targeted clients with whom she was the main point of contact and had a trusted relationship.

It was common practice for clients to leave signed cheque books at the company to allow them to be used for IRD payments.

The woman has then written out cheques and deposited the money into four of her own accounts, including two credit cards.

Due to her banking and accounting experience she was able to circumvent the accounting software package used at the firm.

When she used the client's cheques she entered different codes and different expense accounts to hide the thefts so that they couldn't be picked up by the company's internal processes.

In total, 10 client accounts were manipulated, but some were linked to the same client so a seven clients were affected by the thefts. The biggest loss was $504,927.00.

She was eventually busted when a client changed accountants who performed a reconciliation of IRD payments and discovered payments hadn't been made.

The client discovered she had effectively disguised her level of offending by using another client's funds to settle some of his IRD obligations, reducing the impact of the thefts.

When questioned, the woman said she spent the money on "general living and lifestyle" as opposed to buying up large assets.

As for reparation, the woman's home has been sold with a freezing order placed over the funds. An outstanding amount of $40,634.38 was also paid to the law firm that acts for the victim's insurers.

The woman's lawyer, Mark Sturm, also successfully applied for bail for his client, who was appearing in court for the first time on the charges.

He says she is realistic that she faces a jail term and wanted the next two months to help her elderly mother, who has dementia, settle into a new rest home.

Judge Field convicted the woman on both charges and remanded her on bail to reappear for sentencing on August 18.

- NZ Herald

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