Employee cooks Rook's books

A COUPLE behind a small Tamworth motel is urging other small businesses to be vigilant in the wake of a former worker who stole money from them behind their backs.

BE VIGILANT: Robert Rook and Sheena Evans have a warning for other small businesses. 180714GOH01

BE VIGILANT: Robert Rook and Sheena Evans have a warning for other small businesses. 180714GOH01

Robert Rook and Sheena Evans have been at the helm of the Colonial Inn Motel since 2006 but the four-month deception by the ex-employee has left them on edge.

Catherine Julie Clay was employed to cook, clean and help in the office when she began fraudulently pocketing money while her employers were out, by using a card to withdraw funds.

The 22-year-old admitted her guilt in Tamworth Local Court yesterday, pleading to one charge of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, while a long list of others were taken into account in sentencing.

Clay was originally charged with five counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and 16 counts of embezzling as a clerk or servant following her arrest in October.

Clay originally pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and fronted a hearing yesterday before some of the charges were amended or withdrawn.

Magistrate Robert Rabbidge convicted Clay on one count, while taking 11 other offences into account in sentencing, including multiple counts that Clay had pocketed motel room fees from customers and hidden any trace of receipts from the owners. 

The court was told it was Clay’s first offence, before she was placed on a good behaviour bond for two years.

In a separate charge matter, Clay was also convicted of stealing property in a dwelling while another count of stealing as a clerk was also taken into account when handing down the penalty.

The court heard she had stolen numerous items including restaurant menus and folders as well as kitchen tools from the Cascada Restaurant over a two-year period.

Clay was ordered to pay compensation of more than $1600 back to the Colonial Motel.

But the ordeal will cost more as the couple looks to beef up measures to stop it from happening again.

“Every dollar counts,” she said.

“We are considering what steps we can take to increase security.”

And working in a small business has made the deceit that much harder. 

“I treated her like my daughter,” she said of the former worker, whom she took in and gave a job. She ate with me, she didn’t have to pay any bills ... and we’re not going to see a cent of it.”

Mr Rook said they will now have to pay for background and police checks when employing staff at a cost to them – something that’s foreign to many small businesses.

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