Legal

Hey big spender: Rio Tinto secretary jailed after funding luxury lifestyle with corporate credit card fraud

Engel Schmidl /

A secretary who stole more than $339,000 from Rio Tinto to fund a luxury lifestyle including first class domestic and international airline tickets, dinners, alcohol and concert tickets has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ jail.

As a senior secretary at the mining giant, Kylie Thompson, 34, of Sunbury, was responsible for booking company flights and accommodation, ordering taxis and couriers, and general administrative duties.

She had access to a corporate credit card and over a period of five years she used it to steal $338,901.67 from Rio Tinto in 375 fraudulent transactions, until anomalies were detected in August 2010 and Thompson was sacked.

Thompson pleaded guilty to seven charges of obtaining property by deception and five charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception.

The Victorian County Court sentenced her to three years and six months’ jail with eligibility for parole after 18 months.

Judge Wendy Wilmoth said Thompson created fictitious expenses for flights or accommodation attributed to another employee and channelled refund payments from conference venues due to be paid to Rio Tinto into her own bank account.

“The deceptions were difficult to detect and indeed were not detected until anomalies were identified in April 2010,” Judge Wilmoth found.

Wilmoth said colleagues, family and friends had been “shocked” to learn of Thompson’s offending as she was “universally regarded as a hardworking person, a good friend, a loyal daughter and sister”.

The court heard that Thompson had no prior convictions, and none of her family had ever been in trouble with the law.

Soon after Thompson was sacked, but before she was charged, she made a complaint to Rio Tinto that she had been sexually harassed by a manager in the UK division of the company.

Thompson claimed her offending escalated at the time of the alleged sexual harassment and the allegation is being investigated by police.

“Your actions were a gross breach of the high level of trust placed in you, committed over a long period of time, and others must know that such behaviour will be firmly denounced by the courts and punished appropriately,” Judge Wilmoth found.

Thompson has already paid back Rio Tinto $102,000 through a loan from her parents and was ordered to repay the $236,901.67 remainder of what she stole.

The court also ordered a forfeiture order in relation to items seized.

Rio Tinto spokesman Bruce Tobin told SmartCompany the firm did not tolerate criminal behaviour in the workplace.

Tobin says a “thorough” internal investigation was undertaken by Rio Tinto when Thompson’s suspected criminal conduct was discovered and all relevant information was provided to Victoria Police.

“Rio Tinto co-operated with Victoria Police throughout the criminal investigation and prosecution,” Tobin says.

“Rio Tinto investigates all allegations and suspected breaches of its policies and the law.

“Rio Tinto sought further information from Ms Thompson’s lawyers regarding her sexual harassment allegation, but nothing has been forthcoming.

“Rio Tinto will co-operate fully with any police investigation.”

 

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