An account manager who embezzled more than $400,000 from the school where she worked, splashing out on flash clothes and overseas trips has been sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment.
Rhonda Merle Crabb, 64, was sentenced today at the Auckland District Court.
She had spent 20 years at Lynfield College where she gained the trust of her fellow staff members.
But they had no idea that for the last seven years of her tenure she was pocketing vast sums of cash which she was supposed to be banking.
Crabb pleaded guilty to a charge of theft in August.
The court heard that Crabb stole $419,579.50 in total while working at the school.
At sentencing, Justice Kevin Glubb said the offending showed premeditation and sophistication, and was a well thought out scheme.
The judge said that Crabb's lack of convictions did not entitle her to a discounted sentence.
Crabb had expressed remorse for her actions, saying she was "devastated" she had let down her colleagues at the school.
The court heard that Crabb had made full reparation payments after meeting with Lynfield College principal Steve Bovaird.
Bovaird read a victim impact statement at court, in which he said he had concerns that the offending began before Crabb said it did in 2008.
"This is community money paid to the school," he said.
Bovaird said Crabb had close relationships with staff, who considered her a friend.
"All staff... feel betrayed and bewildered by her actions," he said.
"It was done in what I believe was a sophisticated and calculating manner.
"Her actions were a very significant breach of trust."
He said parents had expressed "grave concern" at the impact of Crabb's offending on the school.
"It did impact on resources for students," he said.
The court heard that Crabb had paid full reparations, including the cost of investigating the offending incurred by the school.
Crabb's sentence was discounted due to her remorse and health issues.
She "got a buzz" from the stealing, she admitted, which helped ease her depression.
Court documents released to the Herald note Crabb spent the money on clothing, overseas jaunts and "other personal items".
The scam was only discovered last year when an administrator at the school found $2354 missing from school accounts and referred the matter to the associate principal.
Crabb was questioned about the money a week later and scrambled to cover her tracks.
She claimed the cash was wedged between two folders on her desk but could only come up with less than half of the missing funds.
With suspicions raised, the school investigated banking over the previous six months and found nearly $20,000 missing.
"When it was first raised with me I thought 'there'll be a logical explanation for this'," Bovaird told the Herald.
"There was never at any stage any inkling anything was going on."
Bovaird said for many of Crabb's colleagues, the reality had been difficult for them to comprehend.
"We were betrayed," he said. "This was a person we trusted.
"Some of those people thought they had a good relationship with her. For almost 20 years they'd have had morning tea and lunch with her and all of a sudden this happens."
Once Crabb realised the game was up, she simply stopped going to work.
Lynfield College, with the backing of the Ministry of Education, employed a forensic accountant to painstakingly trawl through the school's historical finances.
It was discovered that in just over eight years Crabb had swindled $419,579.
All the money had been in cash and according to court documents had come from adult English-language-learner fees, general purpose donations, shop fees and other sources.
It was that that had allowed the fraud to continue for so long, the principal said.
"Because this was cash the school never knew it had it in the first place, all the decisions we were making around budgeting, we never knew that existed."