Woman jailed for three years after confessing to stealing $360,000 from her employer

The Victorian County Court has sentenced Carolyn Hanigan to 37 months in prison for theft of $360,000 from her employer, a signwriting business.

Judge Mark Gamble imposed a non-parole period of 16 months’ imprisonment yesterday morning.

The judge’s sentencing remarks are still being revised. However, The Age reports Hanigan stole the money over an 11-year period while employed as an office administrator for a signwriting business.

Hanigan’s duties included invoicing, filing, paying bills and wages and reconciling accounts. She stole a total of $363,722 spread over 198 separate occasions by concealing the thefts in false invoices.

Eventually Hanigan turned herself in to the police last year providing printouts of payroll records, bank statements and a 12-page spreadsheet titled ”stolen”.

Hanigan told the court she was a “people pleaser” and described her behaviour as “arrogant stupidity”.

She claims she spent the money on bills, gifts and donations that included the deposit for a house and loans for others.

Hanigan’s barrister, Tim Smurthwaite, said part of Hanigan’s motivation was to provide family members with ”gifts” to help them and to ”make herself more lovable than she perceived herself to be”.

In sentencing Hanigan, Judge Gamble noted the trauma suffered by the business’s owner and his wife for Hanigan’s ”gross breach of trust” but he found her voluntary confession was a “very powerful mitigatory feature”.

David Luijerink, of KPMG’s forensic accounting team told SmartCompany businesses can take steps to ensure they are not left in the position of Hanigan’s employers.

“People need to assess the risk in those activities in the business where they are moving assets or liabilities around, things like payroll, purchasing, expenses and contracting,” he says.

“You need to assess the risk as to how easy it is to rip off these processes and what can make a difference rather than just creating more bureaucracy.”

He is unsurprised Hanigan had taken the money over an 11-year period with the business.

“The classic sign of a fraudster is a trusted person,” he says.

“Firms need to ask themselves where they are most exposed, most large scale fraud is from people in the business, not from people externally.”

SmartCompany contacted Smurthwaite for comment but he failed to respond prior to publication.



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