JAIL is "inevitable" for a Horsham woman who pleaded guilty to stealing $232,107 from her employer, a County Court Judge says.
Catherine Campesato, 57, appeared at Horsham County Court on Wednesday. She pleaded guilty to four charges of theft which occurred over a time span of more than three years.
The court heard Ms Campesato was employed with Horsham business Curtains by Robyn Creek, owned by her friend Robyn Creek, when the thefts took place.
Bank records between 2014 and 2017 showed that Ms Campesato made 287 transactions for false invoices under the name of existing suppliers for the shop.
The court heard in 2014 she took $18,552; in 2015 she took $59,077; in 2016 she took $86,989; and in 2017 she took $67,487. This was a total sum of $232,107.
The court heard Ms Campesato had been working at the business since 2010. It also heard Ms Campesato and Mrs Creek had been friends for more than 15 years when the offending started in 2014.
Ms Campesato was employed as an administrator, and took care of the businesses' wages and accounts.
In December 2017 Mrs Creek was alerted by her bank that something was not right with her account and she observed that large amounts of money had been spent on materials.
In December 2017 Ms Campesato admitted the theft to Mrs Creek and her employment was terminated.
The matter was reported to police. Ms Campesato was arrested on May 23, 2018 and was interviewed by police.
She told police that she had "taken advantage of the situation" and admitted to creating the invoices for her own personal gain.
"I take full responsibility for that, but I was given complete access to the (bank) codes," the court heard she told police.
Mrs Creek provided the court with two victim impact statements and read them to the court. She spoke about her long-term friendship with Ms Campesato and said she trusted her with her business.
"When I discovered she had stolen from us not only once, but multiple times, it showed that she had no respect for me or my family," Mrs Creek told the court.
"I was devastated. Our friendship was shattered; I felt lost and betrayed."
She told the court that she had experienced panic attacks and had trouble trusting other people since the incident. She said her business had suffered financially from the theft.
Mrs Creek also told the court that Ms Campesato had taken her to Fair Work after her employment was terminated in order to receive her old payslips.
Ms Campesato also attempted to take out an intervention order against Mrs Creek, however Ms Campesato did not appear at court for the hearing and the Magistrate dismissed the proposed order.
"She has slandered me and my family name any chance she could get," Mrs Creek said.
"I see no remorse or compassion in her actions. The longer this case goes on, the longer it will take to get my life and business back on track."
Prosecutor Jo Piggott said the maximum penalty for the charges was 10 years imprisonment. She said the most concerning aspect of Ms Camesato's offending was that she spent money on "luxury items".
"There are numerous transactions that showed that she spent the money on cafes, restaurants, hotels, facials, pole-dancing classes - there is nothing to indicate the money was used for anything other than to provide her with a higher standard of living," she said.
Defence lawyer Cynthia Lynch said Ms Campesato's offending wasn't sophisticated, except for the creation of invoices. She claimed the thefts were made because of "need rather than greed".
Ms Lynch said Ms Campesato's weekly wage when employed by Mrs Creek was between $600 and $740 a week. She said Ms Campesato took $1140 each week on average on top of her weekly wage.
"She has three children, was the only income earner and way paying a house mortgage," Ms Lynch said.
Ms Lynch said Campesato did not use the money for drugs or gambling. She also said Ms Campesato attempted to sell her only major asset - her house- in 2018 to pay for restitution.
"She tried to sell her home, but surrendered it voluntarily to the bank. The bank later sold it for $215,000, which was significantly less than what my client was wanting. She was then in $47,000 debt to the bank," Ms Lynch said.
Ms Lynch said Ms Campesato had received treatment for anxiety and depression. She said Ms Campesato had also seen a consultant to prepare herself for the possibility that she'd go to jail.
Ms Lynch said she would push for a Community Corrections Order and no jail time.
Judge Michael Cahill said Ms Campesato's actions were a "gross betrayal of trust".
"She not only betrayed her employer, but her best friend," he said.
"She has made some attempt to accept the theft and be remorseful, but there are also contradictory indications to the remorse. She went to Fair Work and tried to place an intervention order against Mrs Creek.
"If I was to place her on a CCO without jail, I would be falling into error."
Mr Cahill said he had two sentencing options - jail and a CCO, or jail and a non-parole period. He said he was yet to make up his mind but jail was "inevitable".
He requested that Ms Campesato was assessed for a CCO.
Ms Campesato will appear at court on Friday for sentencing. Her bail was extended.
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