Alice Springs directors Warrick Curr (left) and James Griffiths (right) outside court. (ABC News: Katrina Beavan)
A 27-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to stealing almost half a million dollars over two and a half years from her former employer.
- Alice Springs Helicopters almost went under following the “systematic” theft of almost $500,000
- The court heard that Marlee Veness spent the stolen money on lifestyle goods
- She remains on bail and will be sentenced on September 12
The Supreme Court heard that Marlee Veness stole just over $486,000 from Alice Springs Helicopters between 2014 and 2017.
Prosecutor Stephen Robson said the money was taken in direct bank transfers over 147 transactions and that many of the transactions were disguised by using legitimate business account names and invoice numbers.
Ms Veness began working for the business in 2014 and left her role in June 2017.
Stolen money used on lifestyle goods and horse equipment
She was responsible for general book-keeping, paying invoices, banking cash and other duties.
The court heard Warwick Curr, managing director for Alice Springs Helicopters, noticed money missing shortly after Ms Veness left the company.
Mr Curr then requested to meet with Ms Veness to discuss the issue.
The theft was reported to police in October 2017 and authorities subsequently began their investigation.
Breach of trust caused significant impact on victims
The court heard Ms Veness spent the money on “personal lifestyle goods” such as horse equipment.
So far, she has paid back just under half of the total amount stolen.
Mr Robson said the financial, emotional and psychological effects of the crime on business directors Warwick Curr and James Griffiths, and their families, was significant.
He said the offender adopted a systematic approach in the theft and described the crime as “at or above mid-range” for this type of offending.
“She was welcomed into the Curr family… the breach of trust involved in this case is quite profound,” Mr Robson said.
The business, established in 1992, has operations in Alice Springs, Glen Helen Lodge in the West MacDonnell Ranges and Ross River Resort in the East MacDonnell Ranges.
The court heard that it almost went under due to the theft and staff had to be laid off.
Acting Justice Anthony Graham described the crime as a very serious offence, and said “one must feel for the victims”.
However, defence counsel Greg Betts said since being charged his client had made full admissions to police and had been cooperative. She said it had resulted in the matter proceeding in a timely manner before the courts.
Ms Veness is currently pregnant and expected to give birth in about two weeks.
She remains on bail and is due to be sentenced on September 12.