A HORSHAM woman has escaped a criminal conviction after she accumulated almost $14,000 on a company credit card to purchase personal goods.
Helen Richardson, 45, appeared before the Horsham Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, where she pleaded guilty to multiple charges of deception.
Richardson, previously employed by the Horsham Grains Innovation Centre, deliberately misused a company credit card given to her by purchasing many unregistered items.
Richardson worked as a plant pathologist for the centre, otherwise known as the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, and often had to travel around the Wimmera for work purposes.
The card was issued to Richardson with the intention it would be used on work-related items such as hardware, farming supplies, and travel expenses.
In May 2017, a senior HR partner with the department discovered purchases on the credit card which had not been reconciled in the company's system.
A further investigation revealed many transactions for personal expenses between February 2016 and February 2018, totalling $13,946.38.
Items purchased included car tyres, prescription medication, animal care products, grocery items, car registration fees, handbags, hairstyling costs, camping equipment and more.
On October 17, 2018, police executed a search warrant at Richardson's address and located two American Tourister luggage bags and spare tyres matching the description of items illegitimately purchased with the company card.
In an interview with police, Richardson stated that she had a personal credit card at the time and may have confused the two when making purchases.
Magistrate Tim Walsh took into account Richardson's lack of criminal history and apparent remorse for the offending but warned her of committing further offences.
"I am taking into account a number of things here, there is quite a breach of the trust of your employer that was placed in you," Mr Walsh said.
"Against that, you have no criminal history whatsoever.
"You have pleaded guilty at an early opportunity.
"I am of the view that is a reflection of your remorse.
"I accept that this was a difficult time in your life in a number of ways."
Richardson was sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond without recording a conviction.
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