Couple steal over $100,000 from bosses

By Sam Hurley

Graham Lowes, back, and Janifrie Foot leave Napier District Court after being sentenced for stealing from their former employer. Photo / Duncan Brown
Graham Lowes, back, and Janifrie Foot leave Napier District Court after being sentenced for stealing from their former employer. Photo / Duncan Brown

A former Hawke's Bay company director and his partner - labelled "commercial hazards" - stole in excess of $100,000 from their business to buy airline tickets, hotel rooms, lingerie and jewellery.

Graham Roger Lowes and Janifrie Foot appeared yesterday in Napier District Court on charges of obtaining by deception and using documents for pecuniary advantage.

They were sentenced by Judge Tony Adeane to four months community detention.

Prior to November 2007, 54-year-old Lowes was a director of livestock transport operator Bushetts Transport 1994, while Foot worked the accounts of the company.

On November 7, 2007 a joint venture agreement was reached where Bushetts Transport 1994 was sold to Bushetts Transport Limited (BTL).

The shareholders then sold the shares of the company to Eastern Equities Investments.

Lowes worked as an employee of BTL from November 2007 until December 2010 and signed a $94,000 employment contract, while Foot had $50,000 contract with the company.

Included in Lowes' contract was the clause he would be reimbursed for all expenses "reasonably and properly" incurred by him during work.

Lowes was also to be reimbursed for up to $1000 for work clothing, his home phone rental and was also presented with a company car.

Part of the contract was for Lowes to present receipts for any cost over $50 incurred by him, while his partner was to reconcile the monthly credit card statements and invoice those responsibly for any personal costs.

From time to time Lowes would send invoices to BTL, however a number of these were discovered to be "personal rather than a business" expenses, including groceries, alcohol, trips on the InterIslander, car repairs and barbecues.

Lowes also had a company Mastercard, which he used to buy airline tickets, accommodation, lingerie, electronic goods, sports equipment and numerous cash withdrawals.

Between November 2007 and December 2010 the credit card debits charged to BTL were well in excess of $100,000.

Foot, 54, then went to elaborate lengths to "disguise" the purchases, some of which were also made by Lowes' brother Tony Lowes.

She was told several times by the accountant of BTL to keep personal accounts separate from business accounts, however, she never did and used company money for dentistry work, party equipment and professional gardening at her home.

Eastern Equities Investments executive chairman Peter Roebuck said the pair had a "bloody poor history" in business and were known for "cheating" to make a quick buck. "Graham is not an honest man at all - they are commercial hazards and public hazards."

During sentencing yesterday Foot's lawyer said she would "suffer tremendously" from a significant sentence given she was a mother of three and was "genuinely remorseful".

Lowes' lawyer said his client accepted they way in which he conducted the business constituted the elements of the offence.

It's understood reparation was not being sought because of an earlier civil settlement.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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