Stolen $746k gambled away

Personal problems and feeling “underappreciated” by his employer were reasons a former Priceline Pharmacy manager gave for stealing nearly $750,000 from the pharmacy

But the man lost all the money to online gambling.

A Melbourne man was “astounded” when he realised that the total amount he had stolen from a south-east Melbourne pharmacy totalled $746,780, a court had heard.

The man pleaded guilty to one charge of theft and one of false accounting, after taking the money from his employer and creating false records in the employer’s accounts, with the aim of covering up the shortfalls.

The former manager was in charge of daily banking for the Priceline Pharmacy store, and for seven years had been employed as its retail manager. He had worked for Priceline for 25 years.

During sentencing at the County Court of Victoria, the judge noted that the man began his thefts with a sum of around $29,500 in July 2015.

Beginning with this amount, he took portions of the daily cash receipts which should have been banked into the company’s bank account.

These ranged from $3,000 in August, to $17,000 in October 2015, but then reduced to about $12,000 – though from January 2016, the monthly amounts stolen were all over $20,000.

From April 2016 until the man’s offending was discovered in June 2017 – aside from when he was on annual leave – the sums stolen averaged around $40,000 a month.

To disguise the shortfalls, he created a false accounting record to offset the amount he was failing to deposit into his employer’s account.

When the thefts were first noticed, another employee had been initially suspected and was suspended from employment for a while, though the former manager had not intended to blame this employee as such, but instead to deflect blame onto the accounting system.

The judge said that it was impossible to calculate an exact number of individual acts of dishonesty over the period, so they had been included into a rolled up charge of one theft.

The man said that he felt “underappreciated” by his employer, feeling resentful that his commitment and efforts over so many years had been undervalued.

He also said there had been several incidents towards the end of 2015 – after the thefts had begun – which caused him further stress and anxiety around his work.

A compulsive eater and gambler, the man suffered from health problems including difficulty controlling his weight, depression, sleep apnoea, and a hereditary condition involving deep vein thrombosis, which led to him ceasing playing sport.

He had been one of the first people to rush to the aid of a victim of a fatal car accident outside the pharmacy in September 2015 – a person who had been a regular pharmacy customer. Also at the end of that year, a staff member died by suicide, though the man did not witness this.

However the judge pointed out that these events happened after the offending had commenced, and she said there was no evidence to support their contributing to the offending or to causing any increase in it.

She said that the man had been gambling for many years, but by 2015 had become “particularly and increasingly” engaged in online gambling, which he did increasingly compulsively and while alone.

He held betting accounts with CrownBet and TabCorp in Melbourne, and SportsBet in Darwin.

According to TabCorp documents, between July 2014 and July 2017 he made more than 13,000 bets totalling $1.744 million.

His winnings during this time were $1.415 million. His annual gross salary was $65,000.

He was handed a total effective sentence of three years and two months, with a non-parole period of 18 months.

An application has been made for a compensation order for the total amount stolen, of $746,780. The judge noted that the man had “no assets from which to attempt even partial repayment”.

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