26 Aug Woman avoids jail for stealing $250,000 from South Australi…
A South Australian woman who used more than $250,000 in money stolen from her employer to buy luxury items including a $2000 puppy has avoided jail.
Sharon Tracey Nitschke, 53, pleaded guilty to stealing funds from the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee between 2013 and 2017.
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In sentencing her on Monday, District Court judge Rauf Soulio said she was working as an office manager when she first stole money to pay for concert tickets in 2013.
“Your offending escalated and you began making numerous transactions,” he said.
“You transferred money from the RVIC bank account to private accounts and to other unknown accounts.”
Between 2015 and 2017, Nitschke used stolen money to make purchases including $8500 on travel, $2000 on jewellery, $2500 on wedding photography, $2000 on electronics, $3000 on her car, $2000 on a puppy and more than $7000 on a cruise.
She was caught in November 2017, when the organisation’s administration officer discovered a fraudulent transfer from the committee’s bank account to one of her accounts.
Judge Soulio said Nitschke’s crimes were undoubtedly serious and her colleagues had felt an “egregious breach of trust” at her sustained theft from the committee.
But he said she had made genuine attempts to repay some of the money, including selling her house to pay back a $50,000 lump sum.
The court heard she has paid back more than $91,000 in total, and that her husband had also lost his job after her arrest and remains unemployed.
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Judge Soulio said Nitschke told a forensic psychologist her behaviour was compulsive and fulfilled an emotional need to feel important.
“You purchased items to distract yourself from your emotional state and in order to obtain the attention and gratification you received in purchasing items for others,” he said.
Nitschke cried as she was handed a three-year home detention sentence, with a non-parole period of 18 months.