A woman who stole more than $450,000 from a prominent Auckland couple has been sent to prison for three years and four months.
Alexandra Holland, 39, admitted stealing $445,643 from Carter Bloodstock - owned by Auckland Arts Festival chairwoman and former city councillor Victoria Carter and lawyer John Carter - over two years from 2010.
At sentencing in the Auckland District Court yesterday she pleaded guilty to a fifth charge of stealing a further $8000 from the Carters' personal account.
Holland is a recidivist fraudster who was convicted in 2005 of stealing $67,875 from her former employer Coca-Cola Amatil.
She then got a job working as Mr Carter's secretary and stole from the business by hiding cheques among large groups of documents waiting to be signed. She would later bank them in her own accounts.
The Carters claim Holland, a mother of two young children, used the stolen cash to fund a lavish lifestyle, including her wedding which they attended, and repaying her husband Nick's credit card debt.
Yesterday Judge Russell Collins said Holland's offending was significant and serious.
"It has to be said that it was premeditated. It was deliberate. It was sustained. In addition, it involved a huge breach of trust," he said.
Mrs Carter read an emotional victim impact statement in court, revealing that some of the thefts happened while she was at Mr Carter's hospital bedside. He has a heart condition.
"I feel Alex took deliberate advantage of his unwell state ... I worry that this has taken years off his life," Mrs Carter said.
"I feel like I am in a nightmare ... I can't believe how much my body shakes when I think I might have to see her ... the emotional harm that her actions have caused is extraordinary," Mrs Carter read.
"One of the worst parts of this whole experience is that it makes me no longer trust anyone whom I employ," she said.
"Alex stole money that we work very hard for. It was meant for our children ... It's time Alex was made accountable for what she has done and the enormity of her offending."
In his statement, provided to the Weekend Herald, Mr Carter said: "I have been totally devastated ... I still find it impossible to believe that I was lied to and deceived day after day for several years," he wrote.
"I feel I can't trust anyone again ... I have had many sleepless nights since her enormous breach of trust.
"It never occurred to me that she would forge my signature, alter cheques ... she systematically covered her tracks."
Holland, supported in court by her parents, showed no emotion as she was sentenced nor when her post- natal depression, low self-worth and low self-esteem was discussed.
The court heard Holland was remorseful and hoped that the Carters could eventually "put this behind them".
Judge Collins accepted Holland was suffering from depression and had long-standing emotional and mental health issues. However, he said they did not cause the offending, rather explained it and said the theft from someone who had placed so much trust in her was "mindless".
Mr and Mrs Carter, described by Judge Collins as "dignified" during the court process, were relieved the matter was dealt with.
"I didn't have any expectations, I didn't want to get my hopes up," Mrs Carter said.
"I'm glad it's out of the way."