The owner of a Mount Maunganui company ripped off by a trusted employee to the tune of more than $350,000 says she nearly crippled his business and destroyed his marriage.
Dionne Michelle Guinness, 42, from Papamoa Beach, who pleaded guilty to 11 fraud charges in November, was sentenced to two-and-half-years' prison in Tauranga District Court yesterday.
Judge Christopher Harding also ordered Guinness to pay $300,000 reparation within 60 days.
Guinness has almost destroyed the business, but we are determined she's not going to destroy our marriage.
Guinness, known as "Spotty", who worked for Sportcraft Marine Limited for nine years as an office assistant, admitted stealing $352,698.45 between 2010 and 2014.
Her crimes included paying herself $40,811.76 in extra wages, writing out tens of thousands of dollars in cheques to herself and family members, and making substantial direct credits into her own bank accounts, and paying other bills from company funds.
The thefts came to light in August 2014, when discrepancies in wages paid to Guinness were noted. Company director Jamie Black said it was like opening "Pandora's Box".
Mr Black, who read his victim impact statement in court with his wife Violet and a number of his staff seated in the public gallery, said they were devastated and all felt betrayed by Guinness' deception, as she had been a trusted staff member.
"We are a company that is like a big family and we treated Dionne like a family member. She knew things were tight financially and still stole from us when we had to lay two staff off. She stole from us when she knew we were seriously struggling and did not care about the other staff and their families who were faced with losing their livelihoods."
Guinness, who bought a car and house during the period of her offending, also used some of the money she stole on overseas trips, hiring a yacht and paying for everyone else on board, he said. Mr Black said Guinness' crimes had a dramatic effect on his physical and mental health, almost crippled the business and put a huge strain on his marriage. He had to take out another $100,000 mortgage to keep the business afloat, he said.
I am so grateful to my loyal customers and staff for their support, otherwise the business would have gone under.
"I am so grateful to my loyal customers and staff for their support, otherwise the business would have gone under," he said. Mr Black said he had never received an apology from Guinness or any members of her family.
Guinness stood with her head bowed during the sentencing, but waved and smiled at family members in the public gallery as she arrived in court.
Guinness claimed the house she bought in Papamoa Beach in March 2014 was a leaky home, and would cost more than $100,000 to fix, so there was unlikely to be any equity if sold because of her $270,000 mortgage and other personal debts.
Judge Harding told Guinness he did not accept that, because there was no evidence to prove her claims, but made the reparation order knowing it was unlikely ever to be paid in full.
But doing so was likely to force the equity in the house to be explored in depth in the hope her victims could at least be paid some money which was entirely appropriate, he said.
Outside court, Mr Black said two-and-half years in prison was not long enough for ruining their lives,
"She should have got four to five years. It's going to take us years to recover from this," he said. Mrs Black said the strain on their marriage had been immense.
"Guinness has almost destroyed the business, but we are determined she's not going to destroy our marriage, " she said.