11 Sep, 2017 12:34pm

A senior employee at SkyCity Hamilton and Waikato Diocesan School for Girls who stole a total of $2.77m while working for the company and school to fund her lavish lifestyle has been jailed for seven years and eight months.

Tessa Fiona Grant was sentenced to seven years and eight months imprisonment at Hamilton District Court today after earlier pleading guilty to 10 fraud-related charges.

She has to serve at least half her sentence in prison.

Judge Philip Connell told Grant her repetitive offending was “clever and cunning” and she had breached the organisations’ and employees’ trust.

Connell said he was reluctant to accept Grant was helping her family when she was spending money on setting up an equestrian centre and jewellery.

The judge earlier ruled the sentencing could go ahead because Grant had accepted responsibility and her claim a SkyCity manager knowingly allowed some of the offending to go ahead by authorising the cheques for her to carry out work on her property was unproved and not a mitigating factor in sentencing her.

In a powerful victim impact statement, SkyCity group general manager risk Erica Jenkin urged the court to “send a very clear message to Miss Grant and to the wider community” to deter her and others from ripping off their employers.

“The biggest impact on SkyCity has been the sense of betrayal by someone who we vested trust and confidence in to carry out her role honestly and with integrity,” Jenkin said.

Grant’s lawyer Guyon Foley told the court she had lost everything and other than a horse sculpture and a real horse – which she had offered back to SkyCity – only had the clothes she wore.

“She tragically lost her partner last year.”

Foley said Grant was “abjectly remorseful” and while the offending had been done to support her mother and grandmother, it had turned into greed.

“… and that was wrong and that’s why this woman should go to prison.”

However crown solicitor Ross Douch disagreed she was remorseful and said the only remorse Grant had shown was around having to give up her lavish lifestyle where she was “obsessed with matters equestrian”.

He said her offending was sophisticated, lengthy and persistent and her “overriding motivation is one of personal motivation”.

In June, Grant pleaded guilty to stealing $1.98m from SkyCity between 2008 and 2013.

The fraud related to 71 transactions over five years while she worked at SkyCity as its finance manager and acting general manager.

Grant had earlier pleaded guilty in January 2016, to swiping $795,000 from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls between December 2014 and August 2015 while working as its commercial manager.

She had been charged with two counts of using a document for pecuniary advantage, two counts of altering a document and three charges of using forged documents.

Following the offending at Waikato Diocesan coming to light, SkyCity also uncovered some irregularities and further charges were laid against Grant.

The stolen money funded her lavish lifestyle which included buying two properties, building an equestrian centre, spending $68,579 on importing a horse from the UK and $55,850 on jewellery.