Woman's $940k theft from vet hospital to play pokies app
A woman has pleaded guilty to stealing $940,000 from her employer, after using the funds to fuel her addiction to an online gambling game that doesn’t pay out real money.
Tasmanian woman Rachel Naomi Perri appeared before Hobart’s Supreme Court on Monday facing 25 charges of computer-related fraud and one count of fraud.
Ms Perri, 49, stole the money over the three years she worked at the Tasmanian Veterinary Hospital as an account manager.
The “anomalies” in bank transactions were only discovered after Ms Perri was made redundant.
The full extent of her theft was uncovered after a full investigation.
Crown prosecutor Simone Wilson told the court that Ms Perri made 475 fraudulent transactions over the course of three years and four months, with the final amount totalling $940,221.
Ms Wilson told the court that Ms Perri was the only person managing the hospital’s bank accounts and transferred money from the accounts to a variety of credit cards, personal loans, and other bank accounts in her name.
Police also discovered that Ms Perri had fraudulently taken out a $30,000 credit card in her husband’s name in 2015, racking up $24,000 in debt without her husband’s knowledge.
When she was interviewed by police in 2019, Ms Perri “immediately said, ‘I’m guilty’.”
The court heard that Ms Perri told police she had been playing a game called Heart of Vegas for the past four years, which is where all of the money had gone.
“It is similar to playing pokies and you shop to purchase coins or credits,” Ms Wilson told the court.
“[But the] credit purchased never turned into actual money. She couldn’t explain why she was playing that game when there was no return.”
Heart of Vegas claims to feature “real Vegas slot machines just like the ones you know and love”.
Its terms and conditions also state that players “may be required to pay a fee to obtain virtual items”, but that “virtual items may never be redeemed for ‘real world money’”.
Ms Wilson read out Ms Perri’s interview with police to the court and said she was in her “own little world” while playing.
“I got myself into so much trouble but decided I’d keep going until [I] got caught,” she said in the record of the interview.
“I knew I couldn’t get away with it. I was waiting for a knock on the door from police.”
Greg Barns, Ms Perri’s lawyer, told the court that the accused had a “lengthy history of gambling” that started when she turned 18 in Launceston.
“She began to use poker machines and she won $26 from placing a dollar into a machine and, as she described it, it went from there,” he told the court.
Mr Grant said his client had moved from Launceston to Hobart for a fresh start, but began gambling 2008-09.
“She described spending consecutive hours on poker machines,” he said.
“One session she spent 16 hours continuously playing on the machine.”
When Ms Perri discovered Heart of Vegas, Mr Barns said she became so addicted that she would keep spending money just to “keep playing the game”.
“She got so addicted that she’d play it first thing in the morning,” he told the court.
“She would set it up at night so it played in auto.”
Ms Perri was diagnosed as having a severe gambling disorder by forensic psychiatrist Dr Michael Jordan.
“He considered that Perri’s gambling disorder was the most significant factor in her fraud activity,” Mr Barns told the court.
“[Her gambling was mindless, with no hope of any financial gain.”
Mr Barns told the court that Ms Perri voluntarily entered therapy and would need to continue once she was in prison.
He said it was unlikely that his client would be able to pay back the veterinary services, after they instituted civil proceedings to recover the money.
Ms Wilson said the accused’s behaviour was “planned” and “calculated”, and that she only stopped because she was made redundant.
“The prospects of her recovering are slim to non-existent,” she told the court.
Ms Perri has been remanded in custody until she is sentenced next month.
Image: Getty Images
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