The boss of a former employee who was jailed for 23 months after stealing more $146,000 says he wants to warn other business owners to take measures to protect themselves from similar thefts.
Lesley Hunt, 54, of Gate Pa, was sentenced in Tauranga District Court yesterday, after being convicted of one representative count of theft.
Hunt's offending, which spanned four-and-half-years, related to her stealing $146,175.60 via multiple fraudulent merchant card eftpos transactions between April 2010 and October 6, 2014 while working for Triac Lighting, Sound and Visual Hire company.
Hunt was dismissed on October 17 after being confronted by her boss and his accountant.
After Hunt was sentenced, company owner Neil Turner said she had worked for him for 12 years, and had been a trusted employee who gained intimate knowledge of his company and its business systems.
"Lesley was my officer administrator and pay clerk, and unlike bigger companies who can afford to employ an independent person to monitor these sorts of transaction. Lesley was my monitoring person," he said.
Mr Turner said most of the company's transactions were done by eftpos.
"For at least two years my wife had been telling me something was wrong because our company's profits didn't reflect the work we'd done, and told me she suspected Lesley had been helping herself. But I didn't believe it because I trusted her so much," he said.
He put the missing money down to extra bank fees or extra costs of running his business, and kept pouring the money into the business to keep it afloat.
Mr Turner said he was faced with putting the business into receivership and had even had to let another trusted employee go.
Matters came to head in early October when he questioned Hunt about money that had gone missing.
"I was getting pretty depressed and had been talking about relocating the company to my home if things did not improve and Lesley knew that, yet she was continuing to steal from me."
Mr Turner said he was speaking out to warn other employers about the need to ensure they obtained weekly automated Paymark statements and to go through them line by line.
"I was absolutely devastated to learn how much Lesley had stolen and originally thought the amount was $9000, but the fraudulent transactions kept mounting up. It was like a slow wound bleeding out."
Mr Turner said he was highly embarrassed about being fleeced in this way.
"But I have gone beyond embarrassment and want to warn other employers to take precautions."
Hunt had offered to pay $20 a week but at that rate it would take 140 years to pay back and while he planned to take a civil prosecution, he does not expect to get the money back, he said.