Former basketballer burdened by remorse

Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013

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A former player in New Zealand's national basketball league who used his employer's credit card more than 350 times for personal purchases is so remorseful he has been told he needs to forgive himself.

Jason Russo, 40, bought mostly food and petrol with the credit card, a judge in Hutt Valley District Court said this month.

Russo's lawyer, Louise Sziranyi, said her client was so burdened by what he had done that she had to tell him that he must forgive himself.

Even Judge Peter Butler said Russo's remorse stood out.

"Everyone who stands where you are says they are sorry but I can accept in your case it is genuine and heartfelt."

Russo, who played in the national basketball league for North Harbour and Auckland, was sentenced to 200 hours of community work and four months of community detention.

Russo was an accounts administrator for TeamTalk Ltd, a mobile radio company. He was given a company credit card to make payments for the company.

When he made the first unauthorised personal payment he intended to repay the money but his personal circumstances changed, he was short of money and he kept using the card.

In the end he used it 356 times for a total of $31,465, mostly for food and petrol, the judge said.

Russo gave a frank interview to police and pleaded guilty to using a credit card dishonestly from January 2009 to January 2013. He was dismissed from his job and in April began repaying the money at $50 a week. Judge Butler said he had a victim impact statement from TeamTalk that said the fraud had been a considerable breach of trust and Russo had covered up what he had been doing.

The company has taken action against Russo through the Employment Relations Authority which ordered him to pay $40,177.65.

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- Fairfax Media

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