A long-term accountant for a Brisbane car dealer who stole almost $2 million from the company to fund her gambling addiction has been jailed for eight years.
- Ms Balfour used another employee’s details to avoid detection when transferring the money
- Defence lawyers said the money was used to feed Ms Balfour’s poker machine addiction
- Ms Balfour will be eligible for parole in April 2024
Sandra Balfour, 67, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, admitting to unlawfully transferring funds from Brisbane Motor Auctions and Platinum Vehicle Sales to her own personal bank account between 2010 and 2018.
A sentencing hearing in the Supreme Court in Brisbane was told Balfour had been working as a bookkeeper for more than 20 years and was a “trusted employee” who had access to the company’s accounts and payment system.
The court heard over an eight-year period she made a “large number of discreet transactions” to herself totalling $1.89 million, disguising the transfers by labelling them with generic terms, so as to not “raise a red flag”.
To avoid detection, she used another employee’s log in information to generate the payments, and then used her own details to authorise them, the court heard.
Crown prosecutor Eddie Coker told the court there was nothing sophisticated about her offending, but it was significant.
“This is a very serious case, but also at the same time, quite a simple one,” he said.
“It’s money being transferred from the company’s account to her account.”
The court heard her offending was uncovered when a customer complained about not receiving an insurance product they had purchased, and the company found the same amount had been transferred to Balfour.
‘Feeding an addiction’
Defence lawyer Matthew Hynes told the court the “underlying reason” she took the money was to support a gambling habit she used as an “escape”.
“[The money] went straight into pokies,” he said.
“This isn’t the case of someone leading a greedy, lavish lifestyle – it is feeding an addiction.”
The court heard she had a previous historical criminal conviction for similar offending, where she “overpaid herself” $30,000 in cheques from a previous employer.
Mr Hynes told the court this offending had been a “need scenario, not a greed”, and the money had been used to pay her mortgage when her husband lost his job and had since been repaid.
The court heard civil action was also ongoing against Balfour, and she had recently made an offer to return around half of the money to the company, to settle the matter.
Balfour was sentence to eight years with a parole eligibility date set for April 2024, but the court heard she would likely face deportation to Scotland upon release.