A Victorian woman who worked for a hotel company has been imprisoned after pleading guilty to embezzling almost $8 million from her employer, blaming a multiple personality disorder.
Wendy Jobson has been sentenced to eight years in prison by the Victorian Supreme Court, with a non-parole period of five years, after stealing the money to fund her online gambling habit.
The case isn’t unusual- several other Australian businesses have suffered the impact of an employee siphoning funds.
Partner in charge of forensic at KPMG Gary Gill told SmartCompany these types of cases are too common and businesses need to take measures to protect themselves against fraud.
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“It’s like déjà vu reading this case. It’s like so many others I’ve investigated,” he says.
“There were not adequate controls put in place by this company around its paying systems and the people able to transfer money from its bank accounts. Most companies have robust systems, but people with administrator type access can do a lot of things within that system.”
Jobson had been employed by the Koroneos Group for 16 years and worked in an administrative management position when she began siphoning money out of the company’s bank account.
Justice Philip Priest said in his judgment Jobson had stolen money on 1478 separate occasions over nearly six years, equating to $7.8 million.
“You covered your tracks by false accounting, including the generation of bogus invoices and the manipulation of figures in business activity statements, and similar,” Priest said to Jobson.
Jobson’s defence argued on evidence from psychiatrist Sylvia Solinski that her gambling was pathological, a result of her dissociative identity disorder, and that she was not responsible for her actions when she stole the money.
But Priest determined she was “fully aware” of her actions, citing her attempts to cover up her actions when she was in touch with reality, rather than try and rectify her behaviour.
“Even if it be true that you ‘lost’ yourself when gambling online, the fact remains that, even on your own version, you realised in your more temperate moments… what you were doing, yet did nothing to stop it,” Priest said.
As well as spending the money on gambling websites, Jobson went on a first-class trip to London with her sister and paid for a corporate box at Etihad stadium. Jobson also admitted throughout the proceedings she had been trying to hurt her boss.
Managing director of Koroneos Group Mitchell Koroneos told the court he was unlikely to ever recover the stolen money as the company was only insured to cover a loss of us to $500,000.
Priest acknowledged Jobson was remorseful for her actions and has sold her home to repay nearly $196,000.
Gill says the case is a lesson for businesses, warning secure systems should require multiple authorisations for a transaction to take place and systems should also be protected by passwords and no one person should have access to the entire system.
When it comes to gambling, Gill says, there are warning signs.
“Generally once the fraud has been detected, people in the organisation start coming forward and pointing out behaviours such as someone going to the pokies at lunch time or playing them online,” he says.
Gill says people in the organisation should feel safe and encouraged to speak up about these issues.
“Businesses should raise the level of awareness among employees and give them an avenue to voice these concerns anonymously by perhaps putting in place an external whistleblowing hotline so employees can remain anonymous.”
“There is not always fraud involved, but at least train your employers and know what to look for,” he says.