An employee of the Melbourne Taxi Club has been found guilty of obtaining financial advantage by deception, after she tricked colleagues into believing she had cancer.
In 2006 Chantal Hoffman falsely told a co-worker she had uterine cancer and then allowed her colleague to raise money to help her pay for treatments.
Hoffman, who had been working in accounts at the MTC, received $5265.30 from 64 MTC members.
She also evaded debts of more than $100,000 related to property investments by claiming she had cancer and banking cheques she knew wouldn’t be approved.
The mother-of-two pleaded guilty to six counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, one count of obtaining property by deception and one count of perjury in the County Court on Friday.
Upon entering a guilty plea, Hoffman was terminated from her job at the MTC.
The Victorian County Court sentenced Hoffman to a wholly suspended jail term of two years and two months for her actions, thanks largely to her guilty plea.
The maximum penalty she faced for obtaining financial advantage and property by deception was 10 years and 15 years in prison for perjury.
Judge Jane Patrick said the money loaned and donated to Hoffman for cancer treatment was used for other purposes, which was a serious deception.
Hoffman was found to have evaded her debts to relieve pressure she was under to repay other debts which had amounted over the course of the year.
The deception was orchestrated by Hoffman who provided cheques to banks and others she owed money to, even though she knew she had insufficient funds to cover the cheques.
On some occasions Hoffman was found to have breached the trust of her employer by using their cheques and signing them, or on one occasion deceptively getting someone else to sign the cheque.
When police first questioned Hoffman about her conduct she denied all the allegations on numerous occasions.
Despite acquiring substantial debts, Patrick found Hoffman’s main motivation was not monetary gain.
Patrick said Hoffman wished to appear to be in a better financial position than in reality and tricked a co-worker and later friend into believing she had access to funds she did not.
In the six-year delay between her wrongdoings and the court case, Hoffman remarried, had children and maintained employment. Patrick found this suggested, in conjunction with positive character witnesses, there were strong prospects of continued rehabilitation.
However Hoffman was said to have not expressed genuine remorse for her actions and general deterrence was needed to discourage others from taking advantage of the charity of others.