Canberra woman jailed after ’embezzling’ thousands from employer

An accounts officer at a Canberra lighting retailer was jailed on Friday after defrauding her employer of more than $160,000.

Jennifer Doone Morris, 50, saved invoices from a supplier into a Word document and changed the details, substituting in her own account number, court documents say.

The altered invoices would be submitted to the chief financial officer for approval, and then processed, with the funds going into her own account.

Morris moved the money around her own accounts, including to pay bills and rent and holidays, the documents say.

On some occasions, the woman forgot to change the supplier’s account details back, and another employee unknowingly processed the funds into Morris’ account.

To avoid being detected, Morris would then transfer that money from her own account to the supplier.

She handed herself into police when Project Lighting’s chief financial officer raised questions about a set of invoices.

He had understood the company did not owe anything to the supplier.

He checked with the supplier, who confirmed the invoice was not one they had issued, and that it was not their account details.

The next day Morris went to the police and told them she had embezzled money from her employer.

She said she stole the money because she was tired of being poor and wanted to look after her family, the documents say.

In total, the woman dishonestly transferred money or facilitated it on 19 occasions between February 2016 and September 2016.

The total amount transferred from Project Lighting’s accounts was more than $191,000, though the woman subsequently transferred about $30,000 to the supplier and so the company’s total loss was $161,000. Only $100,000 was covered by insurance.

Project Lighting, and its insurer Chubb Insurance, sought reparation orders for the amounts stolen.

She pleaded guilty on July 20 to eight counts of obtaining property by deception.

On Friday in the ACT Supreme Court, Justice John Burns ruled that only a term of full time jail was appropriate for the crimes.

He jailed the woman, who cried during the sentence, for a total of 20 months, with five months to be served behind bars.

The remainder of the sentence will be suspended on the woman entering into a good behaviour order for two years.

The judge also ordered the woman repay the company and insurer the $161,000.

She will be eligible for release in April 2018.