A Dunedin receptionist will spend at least two years in prison after stealing $380,000 from her employer and forging the signatures of two senior lawyers while on remand.

The fraud nearly destroyed the business, the Dunedin District Court was told at the sentencing of Janine Mears, 52, yesterday.

Judge Gary MacAskill said he was taking the unusual step of imposing a minimum non-parole period because he believed a shorter period in prison would not hold her to account for the impact on her victims.

Mears was sentenced to a total of four years, three months in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of two years.


She was sentenced to four years on four counts of theft by a person in a special relationship committed while Mears was the credit controller at Gilmour Motors from 2006 to 2012.

She used various methods to steal the money, but would mostly take cheques made out to Gilmour Motors, change the payee details, then bank the cheques in her or family members' names. She also cashed some cheques at other banks.

Three months' jail was added for a guilty plea entered yesterday after Mears admitted that in September, while on remand, she forged the names of defence lawyer Campbell Savage and Crown prosecutor Robin Bates on a letter to her bank asking it to unfreeze one of her accounts.

The judge said his sentence took into account her lack of remorse: "You have effectively destroyed the work of a lifetime of the Gilmours."