Woman admits stealing money from playcentre

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 12:00 16/04/2014

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A Palmerston North woman has admitted defrauding a playcentre of thousands of dollars, and abusing her position of power when arranging accounts to try cover her tracks.

In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Charmaine Rose Bellamy, 44, admitted a charge of obtaining by deception after her theft of money from Milson Playcentre was uncovered.

She was employed by the playcentre for six years, working at two different roles in that time.

As part of her job, she was in charge of the finances of the Seaforth Ave centre for the 2012-13 financial year.

Accounting reports were sent to auditors in August last year, which is where discrepancies in the books were found.

The dodgy numbers were found to relate to payments made to the centre, fundraising accounting and wages paid to staff.

The auditors identified multiple questionable transactions worth $8186. The money was traced to Bellamy, who confessed to the fraud when approached by centre staff.

She also immediately repaid $5027, leaving an outstanding balance of $3159.

When police were called in, she told them she knew she should not have taken the money, but needed it to pay bills and schooling fees.

She also told them she should have got help earlier.

Judge Jennifer Binns said restorative justice should take place between Bellamy and playcentre staff.

"Take full part in that meeting, and hopefully it will be productive."

The judge did not enter a conviction and remanded Bellamy until June.

Central Districts Playcentre 0Association president Veronica Pitt told the Manawatu Standard that Bellamy no longer worked for the centre.

She said 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 playcentre's 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 them on our actions."

The playcentre fraud is the second education-related fraud reported in Palmerston North in the past month. Te Whanau Mana Kakano Kohanga Reo, based at Terrace End School, has had to run with whanau help after its board of trustees chairwoman Petrice Naha Gillies stole thousands from the organisation.

From January 31 to November 2013, she made 37 unauthorised internet banking transactions totalling $21,810.

Soon after one of the transactions, she went out and brought a new car.

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Gillies will be sentenced in June.

- Manawatu Standard

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