Woman stole $160,000 from Dunedin firm

A woman made online transfers of almost $160,000 to her own bank account instead of the accounts of two companies employing her as their part-time office manager, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.

Between May 6, 2011 and January 8 this year, Elizabeth Stephanie Houston, a 35-year-old caregiver, caused losses totalling $156,605 to Valley Industries and $2543.01 to Tinware on December 28 last year.

Houston, of Dunedin, pleaded guilty to three indictably-laid charges of directly accessing a computer system, namely an online direct credit payment programme, to dishonestly cause loss to Valley Industries and one of indirectly accessing another direct credit payment programme to cause loss to Tinware.

She was convicted and remanded on bail for sentence on April 26.

Houston was employed as part-time office manager for both companies, which were in the same building, the facts summary said. Part of her duties was to pay creditors' invoices by online banking transactions.

In January this year, the bank advised the directors of both companies of numerous irregularities in their creditor online payment transactions. Many payments to creditors had been entered into the computer system but had then been electronically transferred to the defendant's credit union account.

When confronted by the directors about the unauthorised payments, Houston admitted using the computer to transfer large sums of money into her own account. Between May 6, 2011, and January 8 this year, she made a total of 43 unauthorised online payments, 42 by computer on Valley Industries' account and one by a cellphone transfer of funds from Tinware's bank account.

The total amount illegally transferred in the 20-month period was $159,148.01.

- Otago Daily Times

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