Canberra woman who nabbed $157,000 jailed for ‘largely inexplicable’ fraud

A Canberra woman who defrauded the non-profit training organisation where she worked of more than $157,000 spent on food, clothes and a new car has been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Trisha Lee Mooney, 44, was finance officer at the Transport Industries Skills Centre when she processed hundreds of dodgy payments for herself and used her work credit card for personal purchases between 2010 and 2014

Chief Justice Helen Murrell said her crimes “painted a dismal picture of largely inexplicable dishonesty” from an employee in a position of “significant responsibility” when she ordered Mooney spend a minimum of 18 months behind bars.

She pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to fraud and using a fake document.

Mooney gleaned tens of thousands of dollars through falsely-claimed time in lieu, overtime and casual rates, the court heard on Friday.

Court documents detailed a lengthy string of transactions on her corporate credit card, with money fleeced from her employer spent on bills, food, DVDs and clothing from outlets including The Coffee Club, Ezibuy, Crust Pizza, Target and JB Hi-Fi.

She also forged a loan agreement to cover up her use of the organisation’s funds to buy herself a new car, even though she had access to a work vehicle.

Her money-making scheme came to light and Mooney resigned when a new chief executive started at the organisation and requested an audit amid financial struggles.

The organisation’s general manager, Denis Dobie, said in a victim impact statement Mooney’s crimes led to a loss of staff morale and caused employees to become anxious and mistrustful of each other. The judge said each offence involved a “very significant breach of trust”.

“Because of her role and the confidence that she had inspired, her work was not closely supervised. Over a long period of time, the offender abused her employer’s trust.”

The court heard Mooney suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after years of work as a paramedic. However, the judge said there was no evidence her condition caused or contributed to her offending.

“The offences were not sophisticated, but they did not need to be sophisticated in order to avoid detection. When suspicions were aroused, the offender attempted to conceal her misconduct, albeit in a relatively clumsy manner.”

Mooney showed limited insight and remorse and continued to minimise her involvement, but had been assessed as a low risk of re-offending, the court was told.

Chief Justice Murrell found the offences were motivated by a desire for personal gain but said there was no evidence Mooney’s crimes enabled her to lead an extravagant lifestyle or build assets.

“Overall, the gross breaches of trust that were involved, the variety of the means by which the offender defrauded the organisation, the period over which she did so, the number of occasions during that period when she committed dishonest acts, her attempts at concealment and the total benefit that the offender gained present a dismal picture of largely inexplicable dishonesty by a trusted employee who held a position of significant responsibility.”

Mooney will be eligible for parole in May 2019.

The judge also ordered she pay reparations of $157,609 in installments of $300 per fortnight.

Mooney shed tears as the sentence was handed down. She blew kisses to her son in the public gallery as she was led from the court room.