A manager at a legal firm stole $374,000 from the company to pay for the upkeep of a Thai prostitute who called him "Daddy", a court has heard.
Peter James McClintock, a 63 year-old churchgoer, had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of false accounting and seven of accessing a computer for a dishonest purpose.
He was sentenced to 12 months home detention and 300 hours community work when he appeared at the Auckland District Court today, supported by his wife, brother and adult children.
The court heard McClintock was employed as a practice manager at McElroys boutique law firm in Auckland when he went to a massage parlour in Takapuna and met a 20-year-old Thai woman in 2009.
In his sentencing Judge Graham Hubble said McClintock's evidence was that he was "shocked" to find out the woman was a prostitute.
"I find that unbelievable. He says he was offered sexual matters and turned that down. I find that unbelievable as well."
According to the police summary of facts, the woman told McClintock she had been working as a prostitute so she could send money to her father in Thailand.
McClintock said he would give her the money and, in exchange, the woman promised to get out of prostitution.
Judge Hubble said McClintock put the woman up in a house and showered her with gifts including four trips to Thailand and "expensive clothes".
"She used to call him Daddy," Judge Hubble said.
McClintock, who goes to church three times a week, also bought the woman two cars.
"The initial contact was sexual and I'm sorry to mention that in front of the family," Judge Hubble said, referring to McClintock's family in the public gallery.
"I believe he had hope of some sexual contact but I believe that did not occur, except for the first few months of the relationship."
McClintock's lawyer Ron Mansfield said the relationship was more akin to a father caring for his daughter.
According to the court file, McClintock took the money by paying himself an additional $5000 a fortnight in wages. He sometimes disguised the payments using the company names Vodafone and Travelex and made 81 transactions over 18 months.
He came clean after an audit uncovered discrepancies.
According to the Victim Impact Statement from McElroys partner Andrea Challis, the firm was "dumbstruck" when staff found out that an employee of 11 years had been stealing money.
Insurance covered much of the fraud but the firm was still out of pocket after paying for accounting services to trace all of McClintock's transactions.
Mr Mansfield said his client had been suffering from depression when the offending took place and he was sorry for the hurt he had caused. He said much of the money went to the woman
Crown prosecutor Rachael Reed wanted McClintock imprisoned because his abuse of trust was so great.
Judge Hubble said his starting point was a prison term of three and-a-half years but took time off for McClintock's early guilty plea, remorse and cooperating with police.