A Tasmanian woman jailed for six years for stealing $940,000 from a vet to fund her addiction to a Facebook gambling game told police she “couldn’t see a way out”.
Rachel Naomi Perri, 49, made 475 fraudulent transactions between February 2016 and June 2019 when she worked as a manager for Tasmanian Veterinary Services.
She was only caught when the business restructured and her position became redundant.
In sentencing remarks published on Friday, Supreme Court Justice Tamara Jago described the level of Perri’s planning and deceit as “significant” and her methodology “sophisticated”.
Perri concealed the fraud in various ways, including making payments from the business to creditors but changing the bank account number to accounts belonging to her.
The illegal activity was not picked up by external accountants who reviewed the vet’s accounts at the end of each financial year.
The business discovered anomalies in transactions in August 2019 and undertook a substantial audit.
Perri’s house was searched by police three months later. She then made full admissions during a formal interview before ultimately pleading guilty to 25 counts of computer-related fraud.
She told police she had been playing a gambling game on Facebook called Hearts of Vegas for four years.
She said it involved purchasing virtual coins or credits which could never be turned into real money.
“She could not explain why she played the game when there was no prospect of monetary gain,” Justice Jago wrote.
“She also said ‘I got myself into so much trouble but decided that I might as well keep going until I got caught … I couldn’t see a way out … I never thought that I would get away with it … I was waiting for a knock on the door from police’.”
‘Severe gambling disorder’
Perri told police she had a 10-year gambling addiction and had been left humiliated by what she had done. She had also fraudulently obtained a Visa card and made purchases of more than $24,000.
Justice Jago said a psychiatric report confirmed Perri had a severe gambling disorder.
She noted Perri had expressed remorse, had strong character references and has been endeavouring to address her addiction through therapy and other means.
“Gambling being the motive for the offending remains a relevant factor … but this has to be tempered against the fact that the offending occurred over an extended period of time and involved a very large amount of money,” Justice Jago wrote.
“(Perri) had a degree of choice to exercise as to how she might finance her addiction, and she chose on 475 separate occasions to defraud an employer who had placed considerable trust in her.
“(She) had insight into what she was doing, knew she should stop, and elected not to.”
Perri was sentenced to six years’ jail and will be eligible for parole after serving three-and-a-half.
She was convicted in 1998 of stealing $30,000 from her then-employer and was given a suspended jail term.