Jail for stealing $240,000 from university

Graeme Jeffrey Pettitt. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Graeme Jeffrey Pettitt. Photo / Otago Daily Times

An accounts manager who stole nearly $240,000 from the University of Otago was always warning his team to look out for fraud, a court has been told.

Graeme Jeffrey Pettitt, 61 was sentenced in Dunedin District Court yesterday to two years and seven months in prison for accessing the university's electronic accounting system and taking nearly $240,000 over a seven-year period.

"The impact of your actions was significant for those who worked with you," Judge Michael Crosbie told Pettitt, who was described as "a senior and trusted manager".

"I'm told you sat at many meetings where it was discussed how the university could reduce fraud against it."

The summary of facts said university financial services division staff noticed in June several unusual electronic payments to a creditor called Hadaad Syndicate. There was no supporting documentation and all payments had been made by Pettitt.

It was found he had set up a bank account in the name of Hadaad Syndicate and had made 72 fraudulent payments into it, totalling $238,846.61.

Defence lawyer Anne Stevens said Pettitt's gambling and drinking addictions were more in the nature of an illness and could not be described as greed. Pettitt had publicly acknowledged his offending and his background issues of gambling and drinking.

The shame was "absolutely enormous". He had lost his home, his position and his reputation.

Pettitt had been co-operative with the auditors.

He had handed over his entire superannuation of $54,297 to try to put matters right and the bank would be taking the full proceeds from the sale of his house, Mrs Stevens said.

Judge Crosbie said while some funds had been recovered from Pettitt, it was likely the remaining $188,000 would not be recovered, with proceeds from the sale of his Mosgiel unit to be returned to the bank.

Pettitt had been receiving counselling for alcohol and gambling addiction, which began 12 years ago following a relationship break-up.

Family members declined to comment outside the court yesterday.

Also declining to comment was the University of Otago.

- Otago Daily Times

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