A TAMWORTH accounts clerk who swindled almost a million dollars from her employer to fund her addiction to horses has been jailed for up to five years.
Linda Gaye Woods sobbed in the dock of Tamworth District Court as Judge Jeffery McLennan jailed her for a minimum of three years for defrauding her former employer, Freight Specialists.
[This is] serious white collar crime.Judge Jeffery McLennan
“[This is] serious white collar crime,” Judge McLennan told the court in sentencing, detailing the elaborate fraud that spanned six years.
The court heard Woods, who worked as an accounts payable clerk at the Tamworth-base, funneled 155 payments totalling $809,510.07.
Her offending was used to help alleviate financial hardship, fund a number of racehorses she had for training as well as services she used to impregnate her horses and vet bills.
"I love you, I’m sorry,” she said, sobbing and blowing kisses to her family as she was escorted out the court by prison officers.
Judge McLennan said the “significant gravity” of the elaborate plan and the “multiplicity of acts involved in the fraud”, was aggravated because she “was in a significant position of trust, she was in accounts payable”.
It took planning. Discreet steps were required.Judge Jeffery McLennan
“Firstly the amount of a money is just 200,000 short of one million dollars,” he said.
“It took planning. Discreet steps were required.”
He said her “explanation for her conduct that she was in financial hardship” was worsened because of her addiction or indulgence that training a successful racehorse would pay off.
She was “chasing her losses”, Judge McLennan said, the bookies term for the “usually impossible dream of having the payday” that will make everything right.
The court heard Woods said her attachment to horses was almost “therapeutic”, and “became an addiction”.
"It became a simple matter for her to indulge her addiction, passion .... for horses ... it became a simple manner ... for her to chase her losses,” Judge McLennan said.
The 46-year-old pleaded guilty to fraud – a charge that carries a maximum of 10 years in prison – and was given a 25 per cent discount.
She had worked for the Australia-wide company for about 10 years and took charge of accounts payable in 2011.
In late-July, last year, the court heard the company “noticed some discrepancies” and later noticed one of the payments meant for the company was paid to a different account.
Further checks revealed that 125 payments totalling close to $620,000 had been paid to the accounts.
Police were alerted and more fraudulent payments – mostly into a bank account in Woods’ name that was set-up in 2009.
The court heard Woods would process the invoices and then make a second payment to her, changing the sub-contractors banking details by altering the original invoices with white out and photocopying it – something to the banking was not easily checked off.
The court was told Woods disclosed to her partner her offending just days before it was exposed by the company who had launched an investigation.
Judge McLennan said “she has broken the trust of people ... she regards as family” and “betrayed the company”.
Her criminality is such that there is no other penalty.Judge Jeffery McLennan
“Her criminality is such that there is no other penalty,” he said.
He said her immediate disclosures and guilty pleas was a “demonstration of her remorse”.
Judge McLennan said in Woods’ evidence, her “reason for her disclosure was that the guilt that she felt ... was simply becoming to much to bear".
She was arrested in January, 2017, at Tamworth Police Station and made full admissions to the fraudulent payments before she was charged.
Woods will be eligible for parole in August, 2020. She was also ordered to pay compensation.