Grandmother goes to jail for stealing $143k from a charity

A GRANDMOTHER who stole more than $143,000 from a not-for-profit organisation for disabled men has been sent to jail.

Sharon Joy Matthews, 51, pleaded guilty in the Maroochydore District Court yesterday to fraud as an employee.

And while stealing alone was a terrible crime, Judge John Robertson suggested stealing from a government-funded not-for-profit organisation was worse.

Judge Robertson refused to consider Matthews' gambling addiction as an exceptional circumstance to excuse her action and reduce her sentence.

"There has to be a distinction between greed and need. This is not a need case, it was to gamble," he said.

The court heard that Matthews, who was employed as the pay officer at Teralba Association Inc at Mapleton, frequently overpaid herself and diverted money to her personal account between December 2010 and July 2013.

She made a total of 178 fraudulent transactions of varying amounts, from around $4 to $31,000.

Judge Robertson noted that Matthews was the only person in the office who knew how to work MYOB.

"You picked your mark," he said.

Her crime was noticed when she took sick leave and someone else looked into the finances.

"They said to you we need to talk about MYOB and you said you needed a cigarette. You went outside and never returned," Judge Robertson said.

Matthews' defence barrister J. Taylor, from HSH Lawyers, said her husband had lost his job and she had a gambling and alcohol addiction.

She was also "living in a tent" at Yandina.

But Judge Robertson said Matthews had "exploited the trust invested in you in a serious and significant way".

He questioned her statement that she had not been able to access her super to pay any money back.

"I find it confusing that you have not been able to direct your super to pay the complainant company," Judge Robertson said.

He sentenced Matthews to four-and-a-half years in jail. She will be eligibile for parole after 18 months.


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