Man abused 'second chance' and ripped off employer to fund drug habit

A man was sentenced to home detention in the New Plymouth District Court on Friday for ripping of his ex-employer to the ...
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF

A man was sentenced to home detention in the New Plymouth District Court on Friday for ripping of his ex-employer to the tune of $21,000.

A convicted thief betrayed the good will of his former boss, who offered to give him a job despite knowing he had criminal form.

On Friday, Preston John Cunningham was sentenced to eight months home detention after previously pleading guilty to a charge of theft in a special relationship.

Last October, he tried to rip off his boss to the tune of  $21,000 by selling a horse float and pocketing the cash. In an effort to cover up the crime, Cunningham created a fake paper trail to try and pass it off as a legitimate deal.

At the time of the offending  he was employed as a sole charge sales manager at JR Trailers.

The defendant's former employer Steve Scott outlined to the New Plymouth District Court on Friday how destructive Cunningham's deception had been.

"He has scarred our company name," Scott said.

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Not long after he interviewed Cunningham for a job last year, Scott came across a news article about the defendant's 2014 conviction for stealing from his former employer.

During his job as a travel consultant at the Flight Centre Chartwell in Hamilton, Cunningham used his personal credit card 41 times to process refunds to himself, stealing a total of $15,821.

For this he was sentenced to six months' community detention, 100 hours' community work and nine months' supervision for the offending.

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Cunningham never mentioned his past criminal history during the interview, Scott said.

When he was confronted with the information, Cunningham promised he had learned his lesson and turned over a new leaf. 

Scott said he and his wife talked it over and decided to give Cunningham a "second chance" and gave him a job.

He estimated the company had lost $100,000 in income from lost sales due to the hit the company had taken to its reputation once the offending came to light.

It had also shattered the Scotts' faith in people and the climate of mistrust Cunningham's actions created had been felt throughout the company, which employs about 55 people.

Cunningham's lawyer Patrick Mooney said the $21,000 taken had been repaid shortly after his client was caught out. The horse float had also been recovered by police.

Mooney said the defendant's drug addiction had been the underlying cause for the offending, a habit he had kept hidden from his partner, wider family and his employer.

Judge Stephen Harrop described the offending as a "gross breach of trust."

"The ripples go out in all directions and are felt in a wide range of people for a long period," Harrop said.

He said the company was still having to deal with "unjustified" transactions which were connected to Cunningham's time with the firm.

Along with the home detention sentence, which he will serve at a Paraparaumu address, Cunningham will also have to complete 175 hours of community work.

 - Stuff

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