A former office manager who caused "utter wreckage" to a family-run business after she stole more than $60,000 has been jailed for 14 months.
Lisa Pearson, 47, of Terang, had sole control over Terang's Casaccio Egg Farm finances when she stole about $61,000 from the business over a five-year period.
She pleaded guilty to the theft in Warrnambool Magistrates Court in December and was this week jailed for 14 months.
She must serve a non-parole period of eight months and was ordered to repay costs to the business.
Magistrate Mark Stratmann said Pearson was known to the owners of the family-run business and was employed in a position of trust.
He said that over 48 months Pearson took advantage of that trust for her own financial advantage.
Mr Stratmann said Pearson further dealt with customers in an environment where she used her position to take private profits.
"In my view this is the most egregious course of conduct," he said.
The magistrate said there was no other way to describe the impact on the business and the family that stood behind it than as "utter wreckage".
He said he had seriously considered a community correction order but that a term of imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence.
Pearson was employed as officer manager at the egg farm between June 2014 and November 2019 and was responsible for 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.
When she 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.
A subsequent investigation discovered Pearson had been stealing money for about five years.
Pearson admitted to stealing $1000 per week over that period but ended up pleading guilty to the theft of a lesser quantity of cash.
During a plea hearing in December, 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.
But Casaccio managing director Lina Sfetcopoulos this week told The Standard that Mr Baker was incorrect.
She said that during the offending period, the family's accountant advised them that they were operating at a loss and could face possible bankruptcy.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Sfetcopoulos said the crime also cost the family about $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.
Pearson immediately lodged a notice of appeal against the 14-month jail sentence and later walked free on appeal bail.
She will appear in Warrnambool County Court next month for an appeal hearing.
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