A former office manager of Terang's Casaccio Egg Farm who stole more than $60,000 from the family-run business could face time in jail.
Lisa Pearson, 47, of Terang, pleaded guilty in Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Monday to theft.
She appeared via video-link and was ordered to appear physically in court on February 1 next year for sentence.
Magistrate Mark Stratmann said the offending had aggravating features, including Pearson being in a position of trust, that could result in a jail sentence.
The court heard Pearson was office manager of Terang's Casaccio Egg Farm between June 2014 and November 2019 and had sole control of the business' finances, including incoming payments from delivery sales and farm door sales.
She received cash, cheques and documents from delivery drivers, as well as cash payments from customers who attended the farm to purchase eggs.
The court heard that when the accused commenced two weeks' of annual leave from August 15, 2019, the business was alerted to discrepancies in shop door sales, with the average earnings more than doubling in the weeks that Pearson was away.
Upon her return, management installed cross-checking systems which showed further discrepancies over a 10-week period.
The court heard an investigation discovered Pearson had stolen close to $62,000 over the five years she had control of the company's finances.
Pearson admitted to the offending during a meeting with management on November 25 last year.
She attended Warrnambool police station the following month and made a no comment interview.
Casaccio managing director Lina Sfetcopoulos said for years she had watched her parents pour their heart and soul into building their business.
She told the court that in 2019 the family's accountant advised them that they were operating at a loss and could face possible bankruptcy.
"We quickly came to realise that all the blood, sweat and tears they'd put into the business was potentially going to be for nothing," Ms Sfetcopoulos said.
She said that in November that year, Pearson admitted to stealing $1000 per week over a five-year period.
The offender pleaded guilty to stealing a lesser quantity of cash.
Ms Sfetcopoulos said the crime cost the family around $300,000, which included engaging a lawyer to assist in the case, as well as a new office manager that they knew and could trust.
But she said no amount of money could repair the impact the crime had on her family's emotional, physical and mental state.
"We're still suffering to this day," she said.
She said the financial implications left her mentally exhausted, emotionally and physically drained and that the time spent on the investigation and attempting to keep the business afloat put strain on her relationship with friends, her husband and three young children.
Barrister Cameron Baker said the egg farm business was initially owned by Pearson's family before it was purchased by the current owners in 2014.
He said that Casaccio, which also runs a site in Werribee, had an approximate turnover of $31 million per year and that Pearson had stolen less than one per cent of that.
He said Pearson was otherwise of good character and that since being dismissed by Casaccio, had gained new employment and that a jail sentence would inhibit her ability to pay the family back quickly.
Mr Baker urged the court to consider a correction order with unpaid community work instead.
Pearson will appear in court again next year. She remains on bail.
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