Public servant’s bail plea as $30k fraud alleged
The actions of a Queensland Education staffer accused of fraud and misconduct could potentially attract internal disciplinary action but do not amount to criminal offences, her lawyer has argued in court.
Queensland Education statistical officer Sarah Regina Esposo was arrested last year and charged with fraud and misconduct in relation to public office after a year-long Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.
It's alleged she and several others used their positions to unfairly advantage themselves by gaining a contract for their own business with the government.
Esposo faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday, where her defence lawyer Michael Cridland applied to have a bail condition requiring her to report to the West End police station each Wednesday removed.
Mr Cridland said the case against Esposo was largely circumstantial and it was not a straightforward case.
"To be blunt it's one of the biggest QP9s that I've ever received in my career," he said of the prosecution material.
"It's very convoluted, the nature of the offending to us wasn't particularised clearly and obviously that's the role of the prosecution to do so."
Mr Cridland said the weekly reporting condition was burdensome and that Esposo had strong ties to the community and no criminal history.
He said she had co-operated with investigators, had not fled during the year-long investigation and had surrendered herself at the watch-house for arrest.
"It is in my respectful submission, an unnecessary stress and burden, particularly in circumstances where she has demonstrated 100 per cent compliance and has a very, very long time before this matter is resolved," he said.
"The defence position is that ultimately this is not a criminal matter.
"It may well be a disciplinary matter in the public service but ultimately it may not amount to criminal offences."
Mr Cridland said the complexity of the case meant it was unlikely to be resolved for some time. with a committal unlikely until at least next year.
"Basically they're alleged to have used their positions to unfairly advantage themselves by gaining a contract for their own business with the government," Mr Cridland said of Esposo and her alleged co-offenders.
"It's in the area of performance monitoring of school measures.
"There's an interpretation of policy, of hierarchy, there's also necessary a level of knowledge, all those sorts of aspects will need to be explored before the prosecution could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there was a level of criminal dishonesty.
"In the hierarchy of defendants she is not the principal. The case to a substantial degree is circumstantial. The crown will have to satisfy a court that there's been a misrepresentation."
The prosecution opposed the bail variation, arguing the offending was "extremely serious" and had allegedly occurred over a three-year period.
Esposo is charged with one count of fraud - dishonestly gaining a benefit or advantage by an employee of a value of more than $30,000 but less than $100,000, and one count of misconduct in relation to public office by doing an act or making an omission in abuse of authority or office.
The offences attract maximum penalties of 14 years and 7 years imprisonment.
Magistrate Tina Privatera said she was satisfied the remaining bail conditions ensured Esposo would not flee the jurisdiction.
"These offences involve allegations of a benefit to the defendant and to other defendants in the sum of $30,000 and offending over a three-year period, significantly as a public officer and so those matters make the offending serious indeed," Ms Privatera said.
"I am however going to grant the application to remove the condition that the defendant report one day a week."
The case was adjourned to November.
Originally published as Public servant's bail plea as $30k fraud alleged