A former head chef at the North Wollongong Hotel has been ordered to pay $70,000 in damages to the pub over thousands of missing chicken schnitzels.
In a judgment handed down last week, the Federal Circuit Court found Kobina Amponsem orchestrated a scam where he on sold the schnitzels to the pub for a higher cost and pocketed the profit.
The former chef had been bulk-buying chicken schnitzels from a business owned by his wife for between $1.80 and $1.90 each and then on-selling them to the pub for between $2.80 and $2.90.
The scam netted Amponsem a secret profit of $1 a schnitzel and the chef never told the pub how cheaply he was buying the schnitzels, nor that the company doing the on-selling was his wife’s.
Amponsem told the court he didn’t reveal the information because the pub’s former owners, Laundy Pty Ltd, “didn’t ask”.
Laundy only realised something was wrong when after a few quiches went missing the company decided to audit its history of quiche and schnitzel sales.
Of the 22,510 schnitzels Amponsem bought, almost 10,000 of them were missing, and of the 324 quiches he had ordered, only 111 could be accounted for.
Criminal fraud charges against Amponsem were unsuccessful and so the former chef brought proceedings against Laundy over $11,000 in annual leave he said was outstanding.
The pub owner said it had withheld the money in an effort to recoup its losses for the scam, which included more than $20,000 worth of schnitzel that was never delivered.
Judge Manousaridis found Amponsem’s actions breached his employment contract and his fiduciary duty to his employer.
“Having been requested to acquire the schnitzels for Laundy from another supplier, and having agreed to undertake that task, Mr Amponsem ’s duty to render faithful service to Laundy required him to acquire the schnitzels from SCCF on behalf of Laundy, and at the best price he could have negotiated,” the judge found.
Employment law expert Peter Vitale told SmartCompany it appeared Laundy had all the right policies in place and the right contractual terms but the pub owners may not have policed these sufficiently.
Vitale says employers need to be alert to potential scams like that perpetrated by Amponsem.
“Look out for overt examples of employee’s personal expenditure,” he says. “Secondly, be aware of circumstances like these where the person responsible for ordering the goods is also the end user within the organisation.”
Vitale says the case demonstrates the importance of making sure stock take is done officially.
“Make appropriate use of surveillance devices and keep an eye out for unusual explanations for employee behavior and making clear what the limits of the employees authority are,” he says.
SmartCompany contacted Laundy but they failed to respond in time for publication.