Staff member's $400,000 Port City Bowlo scam: appeal against jail sentence

THE woman who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Port City Bowling Club lodged an appeal against her 18-month jail sentence yesterday.

Trusted employee of 20 years, Donna Marie Williams, defrauded the club of $413,435.52 between August 2003 and May this year.

The 49-year-old lodged the appeal and was released on bail to contest the sentence on January 29. 

Williams was the club’s administration manager for the past four years and would process and pay accounts in this role.

The River Park Road, Port Mac­quarie, resident carried out the betrayal by creating false invoices of about $3000 each.

Williams would enter each false invoice into the club’s accounting system. She would pay creditors the genuine amount owing, but transfer the remaining money into her daughter’s savings account, which Williams set up when the girl was seven and was no longer used by her.

On August 3, at 11am, Williams was arrested at home.

With a lawyer by her side, she took part in a recorded interview at Port Macquarie police station, where she admitted the deception. Williams told police she was the only person involved in the operation, and the daughter, whose account she used, was unaware and never benefited from the stolen money. 

Williams said she had defrauded her employer because she needed money to pay for legal costs related to the custody of her sons. 

At this point, detectives charged Williams with defrauding the club of $31,000 over a year. 

The club conducted an historical audit and uncovered false transactions stretching back to 2003 and up to May this year, equating to the much greater sum.

Transaction records show she used the money for shopping, paying bills and cash withdrawals.

At Port Macquarie Local Court yesterday, Williams pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining money by deception and one count of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Her lawyer told magistrate Thomas Hodgson Williams had been abused when she was a child.

She moved to Australia from New Zealand and has worked here for 30 years.

WHILE employed at the Port City Bowling Club, Williams had difficult relationships, which affected her mental health.

The lawyer said his client’s offences should attract jail but such a sentence would jeopardise Williams’ ability to repay what she stole from her employer.

Williams was prepared to sign mortgages over her eight properties in the Hastings to repay the debt.

It is estimated these properties are worth $1.5 million.

“The victim is entitled to be paid,” the lawyer said.

He requested a community service order and suspended sentence would suffice as punishment.

The police prosecutor said the victim had asked for the case to be moved to district court so a stronger penalty could be inflicted.

This request was refused by the director of public prosecutions. Therefore, the prosecutor argued, a jail sentence was the appropriate outcome.

Mr Hodgson agreed with the prosecutor, ordering Williams to serve six months on parole following her release in 2014.

“There’s no alternative but jail to be a deterrent to people from this activity, particularly those in a position of trust like management,” Mr Hodgson said.

Detective Senior Constable David Halverson, who worked on the case, said it was likely Williams had stolen more money in the years before 2003, but records did not stretch back that far.

The club declined to comment.

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