Woman stole $120,000 from employer

A Roxburgh woman stole $120,000 from her employer over nine years in what the company owner calls a ‘‘devastating betrayal’’.

Christine Mary Bennenbroek

(58) was convicted and sentenced in the Alexandra District Court last week on charges of theft in a special relationship and obtaining credit by deception from Harliwich Holdings, a family-owned civil construction company in Roxburgh.

Bennenbroek carried out her offending, which Judge Michael Turner called ‘‘premeditated, deliberate and sophisticated’’, while working as the company’s office administrator and sole financial controller between 2010 and last year.

The police summary of facts said the offending started in 2012, when she began creating false invoices, disguised as legitimate business costs, that she paid to her personal bank account or the account of her backpackers and cottage accommodation business, Clutha Gold Cottages, in the township.

She also paid herself extra wages, used a company fuel card to buy diesel in bulk for her business, and failed to repay the company thousands of dollars for a phone account she used for her own business.

Her offending consisted of more than 100 transactions over nine years, and continued even after she received an inheritance of $762,000 in 2018.

It was only discovered by chance, by the company’s manager, in May last year.

In a victim impact statement, one of the company’s owners said they had a ‘‘warm relationship’’ with the defendant.

The company had allowed her to conduct her own business activities during work hours, and lent her money on occasions to help with her alleged financial difficulties.

Counsel Jenna Riddle said the defendant ‘‘deeply, deeply regrets’’ her actions.

A report by Bennenbroek’s therapist linked the offending to unresolved trauma as an adolescent, as well as anxiety, depression and low self›esteem that was exacerbated by the failure of her marriage in 2009.

Ms Riddle suggested a starting point of three years’ prison, with reductions for the defendant’s early guilty plea, remorse and voluntary repayment of the money, which would allow a sentence of home detention.

Judge Turner said he had disregarded the therapist’s report because he doubted the writer’s qualifications, experience and objectivity in the case, and also disagreed with its conclusions.

The offending was motivated by ‘‘pure greed’’ to support a lifestyle with a new partner the defendant could not otherwise have afforded.

Some of the stolen money was spent on casino gambling, cosmetic surgery to improve her appearance, and paying the mortgage on her own property.

From a starting point of three years and four months’ prison, he made reductions for the defendant’s early guilty plea, remorse, repayment of the money, and lack of relevant criminal history.

He came to an end point of 21 months and two weeks’ prison, which he converted to a sentence of home detention for 10 months and two weeks.

Other sentences

Sentences imposed by community magistrate Simon Heale in the Alexandra District Court last week were.—

  • Muru Lewis (25), shearer, of Ranfurly, drink-driving (871mcg), Reade St, sustained loss of traction, driving while forbidden, July 2, Ranfurly, 50 hours’ community work, disqualified six months.
  • Kerry Michael Woods (57), builder, of Springvale, drink› driving (455mcg), Clyde-Alexandra Rd, June 24, fined $1100, court costs $130, disqualified six months.
  • Graeme Robert Male (69), lodge owner, of Oturehua, three charges of careless driving causing injury, Ida Valley-Omakau Rd, April 26, disqualified three months, reparation for emotional harm $4500.
  • David Jacob Reinds (32), of Alexandra, breaching alcohol interlock licence, Schaumann St, May 17, disqualified six months.
  • Kaylum John Halliwell (20), Gib-stopper, of Cromwell, dangerous driving, aggravated failing to stop, disqualified driving, McNulty Rd, April 13, 80 hours’ community work, disqualified six months.
  • Kane Newlands (20), shearer, of Ranfurly, suspended driving, Stevenson Rd, June 24, Dunedin, disqualified six months.