Playcentre fraudster to undergo supervision

A Palmerston North woman who defrauded a playcentre of thousands of dollars will have to live with the fact she betrayed the trust of her friends and co-workers.

Charmaine Rose Bellamy, 44, worked at Milson Playcentre for six years, working various jobs.

During her time there, she looked after the finances for the 2012-13 year. But when the accounts were audited, it was found she had defrauded her workplace of $8186, some of it fundraising money.

In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Bellamy was sentenced to 12 months' supervision for a charge of obtaining by deception in relation to the fraud.

She was also ordered to repay all the money she stole.

Defence lawyer Victoria Anderson said the money was taken because Bellamy needed cash, although some of it was spent on supplies for the playcentre.

She subsequently lost her job at the centre due to her offending.

She also lost a job she moved on to after her offending was made public.

Bellamy had paid back $5274.41 so far, and wanted to pay back the rest, Anderson said.

"If she can get a job she will pay it back faster."

Anderson asked Judge David Smith to take into account that she was unlikely to get employment in the same area after her offending and the fallout from it.

The judge said anyone who offended like she had was likely to lose their job, but that he would take it into account.

He also gave her sentence discounts for her early guilty plea, the amount she had already paid back and the fact she attended restorative justice. The offending had seen the trust of her workmates, who considered themselves friends, "completely shattered".

"You are going to have to live with that for the rest of your life."

Bellamy clearly had difficulties with money, but it did not excuse her "gross breach of trust", he said.

The amount of money taken was at the lower end of the scale, but the charge was still a serious one, he said.

The judge said most people with Bellamy's conviction were given home detention, but her health issues - she undertakes dialysis three times a week - would make that impractical.

Central Districts Playcentre Association president Veronica Pitt previously told the Manawatu Standard that Bellamy worked for them as an employee and a volunteer, and her crimes were committed while in her voluntary capacity.

"Central Districts Playcentre Association works hard to ensure our playcentres have strong financial procedures and this situation re-emphasises the need for centres, and all charitable organisations, to be vigilant in this area," she said.

"Once the anomalies were found we sought legal advice and were guided by that on our actions."

Manawatu Standard