Mainfreight fraudster jailed

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 16:08 25/07/2014
Sushila Devi Mosese
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
PAYMENTS DISGUISED: Mosese avoided detection by over-billing customers and pocketing the surplus.

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A woman who became a self-styled "Robin Hood" and stole more than $4 million over seven years has been sent to prison for 4-1/2 years.

Sushila Devi Mosese, 51, had in May pleaded guilty to eight charges of obtaining by deception relating to more than $4.4m in fraudulently redirected cheques meant for her then-employer Mainfreight.

During the hearing Mosese, who had attended court from remand prison, stood downcast with her head lowered throughout proceedings.

At sentencing before Judge Philippa Cunningham, the Auckland District Court heard Mosese had worked at the company for 20 years and had taken over a social club bank account that was in the name of Daily Freight, a subsidiary of Mainfreight.

Mainfreight's bank account used for that subsidiary's business was Daily Freight (1994), and Mosese redirected mail for the social club to her home address in Otahuhu and deposited 421 cheques meant for her employer.

Mosese, who was employed as an administration manager, had doctored invoices and internal company journal entries to keep her offending hidden, the court heard.

According to the police summary of facts, Mosese had taken over the social club account in 1996, but the charges only related to offences committed from 2006 onwards.

Banks keep records of financial transactions for only seven years.

Mainfreight managing director Don Braid did not want to comment on the sentencing.

After Mosese's misappropriation was discovered the NZX-listed company disclosed a $950,000 provision for fraud in annual financial accounts.

Maria Mortimer, acting for Mosese, said pre-sentence reports concluded the offending was motivated by her client wanting to appear successful and generous.

"That's why she decided to take this Robin Hood attitude, taking from one to give to another. It was in the end for her own good, to look good in the community," she said.

Mosese describes herself in an online profile as a "successful business entrepreneur" and a "deeply spiritual woman who is in tune with the universe".

Mortimer said the loss of her job - her employment was terminated after the fraud was discovered in August 2013 - had hurt Mosese.

"She was married and they appeared to have a very good life. She worked for Mainfreight for 20 years. She enjoyed her job and loved everything about it, and she's lost it," Mortimer said.

Prosecutor Erin Woolley told the court the fraud was aggravated by its scale and duration.

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"This offending can only be described as very serious," she said.

The pre-sentence reports showed no remorse, she said.

"They suggest a sense of entitlement that the defendant had, and her desire to perceive herself as a successful businesswoman."

Judge Cunningham said much of the money obtained by Mosese had been used to prop up her failing businesses, as well as generous contributions to her and her husband's families in the Pacific.

Woolley told the court Mainfreight had gained a settlement in the High Court for $3.2m from third parties whose identities were subject to a confidentiality order.

"It relates to those parties perhaps not understanding their roles in seeing what was happening," Woolley said.

In sentencing, Judge Cunningham gave no discount for good character and no prior appearance in New Zealand courts, noting the dishonesty had occurred over a long period and that Mosese had a prior conviction in Fiji from stealing from her employer.

Judge Cunningham noted her early guilty plea and gave her an 18-month discount on a starting sentence of six years.

- Stuff

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