Southland man stole from farm for two years

A man who used company heifers to breed calves and sold company stock to the value of $28,130.34 for his own profit has been sentenced to home detention.

Mark Anthony Devery, 50, of Otautau, was sentenced to 11 months' home detention and 175 hours' community work by Judge Bernadette Farnan in the Invercargill District Court on Wednesday.

He had pleaded guilty to 11 charges of theft in a special relationship and six charges of obtaining by deception.

A summary of facts says Devery and three other directors purchased Alton Valley Farm Ltd, a dairy farm near Tuatapere in western Southland.

Devery held the role of equity manager, which included managing the day to day running of the farm as well as being a shareholder.

He was the only shareholder or director who lived on the property.

In August 2012, one of the directors visited the farm and noticed that dairy calves on the property did not have ear tags.

This was unusual as calves are usually tagged as soon as they are born, the summary says.

"Due to this and other suspicions the directors requested that the farm financial administrator complete an audit."

The audit found that all Alton Valley Farm heifers had been electronically transferred out or sold from the Alton Valley Farm records to another herd code, and that the heifers had been artificially inseminated by a technician.

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"This was against company policy as calves born via artificial insemination can cause a difficult first calving for the heifer due to their size."

The heifers had then been electronically transferred or sold back to Alton Valley Farm.

On September 24, 2012, the directors held a meeting with the defendant discussing the unauthorised transferring of company stock, mating of company stock, and falsification of company documentation.

Devery admitted he had arranged for the artificial insemination of the heifers with the intention of obtaining the cows for his own benefit, and was dismissed from his employment, the summary says.

On September 28, 2012, police searched Devery's property and seized a computer hard drive, and analysis of the hard drive confirmed the transfers.

In 2013, police requested information from meat processing companies and Devery's banks, which revealed 11 transactions where the proceeds from stock sold from Alton Valley Farm went to his personal bank account. 

The set of transactions totalled $28,130.34, and were made between November 2010 and April 2012, the summary says. 

The offending happened during an extended period of time and involved premeditation, Judge Farnan said.

The other directors lived elsewhere and had relied on Devery, and he had betrayed their trust, she said.

"They showed faith and belief in you."

She did not make a reparation order as that had already been dealt with, Judge Farnan said.

 - Stuff

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