A Tauranga office manager who stole $50,000 from her employer to feed her gambling habit has been sentenced to four months' home detention and must pay back all of the money.

Sharon Benita Whittle, 54, of Bellevue, was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday after she earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of theft by a person in a special relationship.

The court heard Whittle was employed as an office manager by Sportcraft Marine Limited in Mount Maunganui for about three years.

Her duties included doing the banking, balancing the till and helping ensure the PAYE was paid to Inland Revenue on time.


On June 20, 2016, Whittle took a customer refund card and used it to obtain a refund which she paid into her own bank account.

She also used the refund card a further 176 times between June 20, 2016, and February 28 this year and paid the money into her multiple personal bank accounts.

Whittle, who attended a restorative justice meeting with one of the company directors, admitted paying herself refunds totalling $50,000, the court heard.

Lawyer David Bates told Judge David Cameron she was was "incredibly remorseful" for her actions and had already repaid $17,198.

Bates said Whittle was committed to paying the rest back as quickly as possible at $500 a month despite still looking for work.

Judge David Cameron told Whittle the starting point must be imprisonment.

But given her guilty plea, the extent of remorse she had shown, and offer to pay full reparation, he was prepared to grant home detention, the judge said.

Judge Cameron noted Whittle had also undertaken counselling since her offending and attended a restorative justice meeting with company director Jamie Black.


Judge Cameron told Whittle the victim impact statements made sad reading.

"It's clear your actions have caused extreme stress to Mr Black and his late wife, and this has been a tumultuous event in their lives and left the company in financial difficulties.

"Mr Black has been left in an appalling situation, and the extent of the emotional harm he and his late wife have suffered cannot be understated in this case," the judge said.

Judge Cameron ordered Whittle to pay $32,302.36 reparation at $500 a month, with the first instalment due in 14 days time.

It was not the first time Sportcraft Marine Limited has been the victim of a substantial theft by a trusted employee.

In February 2015, Dionne Michelle Guinness was jailed for two-and-half years after she stole $352,698.45 between 2010 and 2014.


On appeal, Guinness was ordered to pay back $50 a week over a five year period.

Outside court, Black told the Bay of Plenty Times Whittle was aware of Guinness' offending when joining the company which, in his view, made her actions even worse.

However, Black said he accepted Whittle's expression of remorse appeared sincere.