A Queensland abattoir worker has been found guilty of stealing more than $4000 worth of cow gallstones from his employer over a six-month period.
Dean Eames, 38, pleaded guilty to charges of theft in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court earlier this week.
Gallstones from livestock can fetch up to $20,000 per kilogram as they are highly prized in Chinese medicine for the treatment of hepatitis and liver and gallbladder ailments.
While they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, Queensland Police said in a statement about the theft, stones that are “whole, smooth, lustrous” attract the highest price.
However, the former abattoir worker’s solicitor argued in court his client did not know how much gallstones could fetch on the market, according to the Toowoomba Chronicle.
Instead, Eames reportedly stored the stones at the abattoir and ate them for his own medicinal purposes.
Eames avoided two months in prison and was instead given a wholly suspended sentence.
Fraud expert and chief executive of Warfield and Associates, Brett Warfield, told SmartCompany SMEs need to have the right policies and processes in place in order to minimise employee theft.
“Organisations, whatever their size, really need to do a risk assessment to be able to identify where their major risk areas of theft and fraud are,” Warfield says.
“One of the components of that is the value of the items they have — so the value of their stock or goods. Of course, these things are highly regarded by Chinese medicine … so while they’re small in size you can put it in the same category as precious metals.”
The gallstone thief was successfully prosecuted thanks to CCTV footage. However, Warfield says business owners need to understand security footage has both benefits and drawbacks.
“CCTV is very good for going back once you have an idea of when something’s happened and you’re able to identify a time frame in recent history,” he says.
“Unfortunately it’s not good if you have to go back six months ago because most organisations don’t keep it that long. You also need to be able to make them [employees] accountable, so you need someone to look at how many cattle are coming through, the gallstones taken out of the cattle each time … treat it as an in-and-out stock item just as you would anything else.”
Warfield also points out only a tiny minority of staff steal from their employers.
“Regardless, every organisation should make sure they are constantly reviewing their controls because it’s also about protecting the integrity of their own staff,” he says.
“If something like this happens, their staff might get tainted with the same brush.”