‘Betrayed’ small business owner’s heartbreak over fraud
A STRATFORD small business owner has described how his "trust was betrayed" by a former staff member who stole more than $20,000 while working as his accounts and administration officer.
Single mum-of-two Sharon Leptig, 44, siphoned the cash over 13 months at Cairns Marine between 2016 and 2017 by stealing from petty cash and using the company credit card for personal expenses.
She had worked for the company since 2014 and her offending came to light when staff realised they were not receiving their superannuation and an investigation was launched before she was charged in June 2018.
She was handed a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence with immediate parole in the Cairns District Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to one count of fraud.
The court heard the total amount she stole was $21,357.70.
Cairns Marine owner Lyle Squire Jnr said her sentencing brought "closure to an unpleasant and stressful time in my life".
"The damage Sharon created was far in excess of the monetary value she has been convicted of," he said.
"Sharon was welcomed into our family business as part of the family and that trust was betrayed."
The court heard Leptig was motivated to steal the cash by "need not greed" as she struggled financially as a single parent.
But Crown prosecutor Gelma Meoli said even when confronted with what she had done it was "like pulling teeth" to extract a confession.
"Even when she was asked if there was anything else and told there would be a full investigation, there were still things she wasn't admitting to," she said.
"She was in charge of the financial business, she was responsible for it. She would have known it was going to come out."
Defence barrister Tony Kimmins said she was remorseful, had paid full restitution and now had a new job where she did not deal with money.
Judge Julie Dick described the offending as a "significant breach of trust".
"This was a family business and it happened over 13 (sic) months," she said.
"(By paying back the money) it doesn't mean you're buying your way out of prison, but it is seen as remorse.
"You have to stay squeaky clean."
Originally published as 'Betrayed': Cairns small business owner's heartbreak over fraud