Mackay woman stole $267k from disabled man
WELDING business owner Ross Davidson hired a family friend in 2010 as his quadriplegia made administrative tasks difficult.
Just five months after Mackay woman Kellie-Maree Kingston started in the office assistant role, she started overpaying her own wages.
In the 26 months that followed, Kingston, now 34, withdrew $267,709 on top of what she should have paid herself.
Kingston pleaded guilty to fraud as an employee in the District Court in Mackay on Thursday.
Judge Paul Smith said that in mid-2012 Mr Davidson was told his business owed $99,000 in unpaid GST to the Australian Taxation Office.
He checked his accounts and discovered that Kingston had not only not paid invoices, but had consistently overpaid herself, a total of 298 times.
The judge said that Mr Davidson had offered Kingston the opportunity to repay the money without getting police involved, but she had not done so.
Crown prosecutor Alexandra Baker said Kingston's guilty plea had come late - she had been charged in 2014 and the matter had been listed for trial a number of times.
Judge Smith said Kingston had two similar previous convictions in 2009, relating to when she'd worked at a Mackay hotel.
In that instance, she had used her position to manipulate the Keno betting system and receive $15,000.
At the time Kingston was defrauding Mr Davidson's business, she was still on a probation order for the previous fraud offences.
Defence barrister Stephen Byrne said Kingston was a mother of four children aged 12 years and under.
He said she had been motivated out of "need not greed" and spent the money funding her husband's gambling addiction, bills, holidays and groceries.
Mr Byrne provided character references from Kingston's husband, two sisters, parents and five female friends.
Judge Smith said the fraud had had a significant impact on Kingston's vulnerable employer. He had a condition where cysts grew on his spine and he was bound to a wheelchair. The offending had been "callous".
The judge said psychological reports showed Kingston was remorseful.
Kingston was sentenced to five years in jail and will be released on a suspended sentence after 20 months.
Wheelchair-bound victim now unable to retire or see family
OUTSIDE the Mackay courthouse, 67-year-old Ross Davidson said having a staff member defraud his small welding business had had an enormous impact on his life.
He said he had recently built a house to accommodate his disability. The financial blow to his business meant he would not be able to pay off the home until he was 82.
In the past, Mr Davidson had paid for flights for his family in Melbourne to visit him in Mackay. They weren't "well-off" and he has been unable to travel for 30 years.
"I'd bring them up, but since then I've seen my nephew once and my sister twice in four years," he said.
Mr Davidson said he had struggled with trust since being betrayed by the family friend.
"I relied on her to do everything because I can't open letters... She did the pays, the super, all the business accounts," he said.
Mr Davidson, whose business employs four staff, said he was glad the matter had finally been resolved in court.
"It's taken four years since I sacked her... It's never ending stress, you never know what's going to happen," he said.
He was supported in court by a group of friends and support workers.