Business gets back fraction of $32k taken by gambling addict

Clyde Tanner, owner-manager of Railway Hotel, Calliope was gutted after a former staff member was found to be stealing from them.
Clyde Tanner, owner-manager of Railway Hotel, Calliope was gutted after a former staff member was found to be stealing from them. Brenda Strong

A  FAMILY is devastated after a former employee admitted to stealing from them - and they say they're only getting back a tiny fraction of what was taken.

Mitchell Joseph Betts, a former bottle shop worker at Calliope's Railway Hotel, appeared in Gladstone Magistrates Court on Thursday, where he pleaded guilty to single charges of fraudulent omission of entry in record and stealing.

It was alleged the 24-year-old had routinely stolen money from the bottle shop from late 2011, for almost a year before his arrest on October 10 last year.

Despite previous police prosecution attempts to have Betts charged with stealing sums of about $32,000, the matter was finally settled when a total of $3464.73 was agreed between the prosecution and defence.

Defence solicitor Megan Creaser said her client suffered from a multitude of psychological problems, which included being diagnosed as clinically depressed, bipolar and having an addictive personality.

She also blamed his crippling gambling addiction to poker machines for prompting the repeated stealing.

"His offences weren't due to greed and selfishness, they were due to his gambling addiction," Ms Creaser said.

Shattered owner-manager of the Railway Hotel, Clyde Tanner, continues to allege the actual sum stolen was significantly higher.

"We've basically been robbed twice because we've not only lost the money, but we've got to replace the stock too," Mr Tanner said.

While the bottle shop had CCTV installed, Mr Tanner said equipment malfunction had also cost the family, because the system taped over itself after a month, essentially wiping valuable evidence.

"There's two ways you can look at it," he explained.

"What we can positively prove through the books was one amount, and what we could positively prove by camera was another," he said.

The scheming employee was eventually brought undone by a witness, who Police prosecutor Nina Sulzer said saw Betts place cash directly in his pocket, before the witness raised the alarm with Mr Tanner.

Mr Tanner, who said he would "never ever employ a friend again", said Betts had a systematic approach to the theft.

"He (Betts) was giving them (customers) the product, then the change out of the till but taking the cash and somehow he was keeping the tills within $3 of balancing so it wouldn't raise the alarm," he said.

Betts was convicted, sentenced to a two-year probation period and ordered to serve 80 hours unpaid community service.

Topics:  calliope gladstone magistrates court railway hotel theft

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