Office staffer jailed for $1m fraud

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014
Tina Esau
IAIN McGREGOR/ Fairfax NZ
DAY OF RECKONING: Tina Esau’s offending was devastating for the family-owned company she worked for, the Christchurch District Court heard.

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Investigators can find little trace of $1,142,280 that a Christchurch woman with a gambling addiction embezzled from her employers.

The 31-year-old office staffer, Tina Emma Esau, was yesterday jailed for four years and three months by Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan.

She had pleaded guilty on January 24, admitting five representative charges of theft by a person in a special relationship. The name of the company is suppressed.

Between 2009 and 2013 Esau made nearly 500 transfers, totalling $1,142,280, from the company trust account into her own bank account.

Investigators have found few assets, though Crown prosecutor Catherine Butchard said the police's Asset Recovery Unit was continuing its inquiry.

Esau had $9000 in a bank account but that had now been used up in disbursements, and she had two second-hand cars worth a total of $10,000.

The company is family owned, and family members read statements in court, telling the judge of a feeling of betrayal at Esau's offending. The business owners were hard-working entrepreneurs who had looked after their staff, the daughter of one said.

One victim called for Esau's family assets to be sold to repay some the money, since her family had benefited from the offending, whether knowingly or not.

The father said the parents were now unable to be as supportive for their children as they wished. The family had recently formed a charitable trust, and he believed Esau should be ordered to pay half her future earnings to charities of their choice.

The mother told the court: "The sense of betrayal and disbelief is horrendous."

She said the business owners had had no explanation from Esau.

One of the daughters said she had wondered how Esau could have had so many parties and trips away, staying in penthouses.

Defence counsel Andrew McKenzie handed the judge and prosecutor apology letters that Esau had written to the court and to the victims.

The Crown described the offending as deliberate and calculated, and said a six-year starting point was warranted before other factors were taken into account.

Butchard said Esau had not told police where money had gone overseas, or about other assets that had gone to her family.

Esau said in her letter to the judge that about 60 per cent of the money had gone into poker machines because of her gambling addiction, and the rest had been used for holidays, or spent on herself and her family.

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Judge Callaghan ordered Esau to pay a nominal reparation figure of $100,000. Payments will be suspended until her release from prison.

- The Press

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