A longtime accountant for a Brisbane car dealership who stole nearly $2 million from the company to fund her gambling addiction has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Most important points:
- Ms Balfour used another employee’s details to avoid detection when transferring the money
- Defense lawyers said the money was used to feed Ms Balfour’s poker machine addiction
- Ms Balfour will be eligible for parole in April 2024
Sandra Balfour, 67, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, admitting she unlawfully transferred money from Brisbane Motor Auctions and Platinum Vehicle Sales to her own bank account between 2010 and 2018.
A conviction hearing in the Brisbane Supreme Court was told that Balfour had worked as a bookkeeper for more than 20 years and was a “trusted employee” who had access to the company’s accounts and payment system.
The court learned over an eight-year period that she had made “a large number of discrete transactions” for herself totaling $1.89 million, disguising the transfers by labeling them with generic terms, so as not to “red flag ” to lift.
To avoid discovery, she used another employee’s credentials to generate the payments and then used her own credentials to authorize them, the court heard.
Crown Prosecutor Eddie Coker told the court there was nothing sophisticated about her offense, but it was significant.
“This is a very serious matter, but at the same time a very simple one,” he said.
“It’s money transferred from the company’s account to its account.”
The court heard that her violation was discovered when a customer complained of not receiving an insurance product they had purchased, and the company discovered that the same amount had been transferred to Balfour.
‘Feeding an Addiction’
Defense attorney Matthew Hynes told the court that the “underlying reason” she took the money was to support a gambling habit she used as an “escape.”
†[The money] went straight into slots,” he said.
“This isn’t the case of someone living a greedy, lavish lifestyle — it’s feeding an addiction.”
The court heard she previously had a historic criminal conviction for similar violations, in which she “overpaid” $30,000 in checks from a previous employer.
Mr Hynes told the court that this offense had been an “emergency scenario, not greed” and that the money had been used to pay off her mortgage when her husband lost his job and had since been repaid.
The court heard that Balfour also had a civil suit, and she had recently made an offer to return about half of the money to the company to settle the case.
Balfour was sentenced to eight years in prison with a parole date in April 2024, but the court heard she would likely be deported to Scotland after her release.