4-year 3-month jail term for $1.1m theft

March 13, 2014 | By More

Court House-Sept-2013-05Investigators can find little trace of $1,142,280 embezzled from her employers by a Christchurch woman with a gambling addiction.

The 31-year-old office staffer, Tina Emma Esau, was yesterday jailed for four years three months by Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan.

She had admitted five representative charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.

The name of the company where the thefts occurred has been suppressed since her guilty pleas on January 24. The thefts occurred through nearly 500 transactions transferring money from the company trust account into Esau’s bank account – transfers totalling $1,142,280, from 2009 to 2013.

Investigators have found few assets, though Crown prosecutor Catherine Butchard said the police’s Asset Recovery Unit was continuing its inquiry.

Esau had $9000 in a bank account but that had now been used up in disbursements, and she had two secondhand cars worth a total of $10,000.

One of the victims said: “I believe all of Tina’s family have benefitted from the offences, whether knowingly or not.” She believed her family’s assets, in New Zealand or overseas, should be sold to repay some of the money.

The family-owned company has paid for all the losses. Family members read statements in court, telling the judge of a feeling of betrayal from Esau’s offending. The business owners had been hard working entrepreneurs who had looked after their staff, one of their daughters said.

The father said the parents were now unable to be as supportive for their children as they wished. The family had recently formed a charitable trust, and he believed that Esau should be ordered to pay half her future earnings to charities of their choice.

The mother told the court: “The sense of betrayal and disbelief is horrendous.” She said the business owners had had no explanation from the woman for her offending.

One of the daughters said she had wondered how Esau could have so many parties, so many trips away, and stay in penthouses.

Defence counsel Andrew McKenzie handed the judge and prosecutor apology letters that Esau had written to the judge and to the victims.

The Crown described the offending as deliberate and calculated, and said a six-year starting point was warranted before other factors were taken into account. Miss Butchard said Esau had not given help by telling the police where money had gone overseas, or other assets that had gone to her family.

Esau said in her letter to the judge that about 60 percent of the money had gone into poker machines because of her gambling addiction, and the rest had been used for holidays, or spent on herself and her family. She wrote that she apologised to the family who owned the business.

He jailed Esau and ordered her to pay a nominal reparation figure of $100,000. Payments will be suspended until after her release from prison.

Category: Focus

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