A SINGLE mother who rorted more than $10,500 from a nursing home has pleaded guilty to stealing property as a clerk in court.
Chantelle Burkett, 31, worked at Uralla’s McMaugh Gardens Aged Care Centre from 2016, and was caught out when the accounts manager ran a dip test of petty cash.
She appeared at Armidale Local Court on Monday.
Often taking clients to appointments in Tamworth and Armidale, Burkett would use petty cash to make purchases for the clients or the facility.
The float had $500 to pay for expenses, and on December 5 last year, the accounts manager noticed there was a consistent amount of $500 being taken out and used entirely by Burkett.
Defence solicitor Frank Falcomata said his client is a single mother, who used the money to care for her child.
“She tells me the reason for her actions is that she had always been a struggling single mother, the father rarely contributes to any bills,” he said.
“She regrets her actions, the monies she improperly obtained were for the purchase of clothes and food and she did it over a period of a little more than a year.”
Police evidence shows the accounts manager noticed a number of receipts didn’t match with what Burkett was purchasing for the clients.
Some of the claims were meant to be $60 and she had put a ‘1’ in front to make the claim $160.
Burkett also purchased meat products, a move that is against the council's operating procedures as meat must be supplied by an approved contractor.
When the accounts manager confronted Burkett, she claimed the purchases were for council staff and the facility, but when the other staff members were asked they said Burkett was lying.
An audit of the receipts showed Burkett consistently changed the cost amount and pocketed the difference, and when she was confronted with the allegations by staff she admitted taking the money.
On December 18, Burkett resigned by email and wrote she knew police would be involved, she might be charged and go to court – and that she knew what she did wasn’t right.
Officers went to Burkett’s home in Walcha on March 8, where she was cautioned and the conversation recorded. At the end of the conversation she was informed she owed around $10,500, to which she said, “Yep, ok.”
Magistrate Michael Holmes said it was a significant matter.
“It’s a terrible breach of trust,” he said.
“Has she got a drinking or drug problem? What’s the chance of reimbursement?”
The court heard Burkett did not have substance abuse problems, but would have a limited capacity to reimburse the money, owed to Uralla Shire Council.
Mr Falcomata said the crime was opportunistic, but it wasn’t planned.
“She doctored the invoices by adding 1’s in front of the respective amounts,” he said.
“It is a shame that she has made such a terribly poor error of judgement – It’s a real shame because she’s had a good upbringing, been a good mother.”
The matter was adjourned to July 2 for sentencing with no bail, Burkett will attempt to pay some of the money in the meantime.