Grandma destroyed records to cover thefts

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 17:45 21/11/2012

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A Christchurch grandmother will spend a year on home detention for years of thefts from her employer, but the amount she took will probably never be known.

The Crown says Shirley Ann Tomuli, 62, took $184,000 from the firm where she worked for a long period and paid back nearly $45,000 before the thefts were discovered.

But Tomuli says she paid it all back and in her pre-sentence interview with probation she spoke of having "borrowed" money from her employer.

Christchurch District Court Judge Alistair Garland ensured she understood that was not what had happened. He spoke of a "sophisticated fraud involving a very large sum of money over a lengthy period".

Tomuli was appearing for sentence on a representative charge of dishonestly using documents.

Defence counsel Paul Norcross said Tomuli had offended when things went wrong with her marriage. Her husband had taken up gambling and she had succumbed to the pressure to find money from somewhere else.

The case involved an earlier disputed facts hearing to try to decide the extent of the thefts. That judge had found there was evidence she had hidden her offending. The losses were at least $3556 but he was satisfied it was likely they were very much larger.

Judge Garland said: "That judge concluded that you had secreted away or disposed of evidence of credit notes so as to make it impossible for the full extent of your conduct to be found."

From 2002 to 2009, Tomuli deposited company money into the social club fund she also administered, and then made $499 withdrawals from that account. The money was transferred into her bank account or used for personal expenses.

Tomuli's system was described in court as "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

Tomuli now does part-time work and receives a benefit while she cares for two young grandchildren who live with her.

Judge Garland imposed one year of home detention at her address in North New Brighton.

He ordered her to repay the proven losses of $3556 at $30 a week, but the former employer will have to take civil action against her if it seeks to recover more money.

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- The Press

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