A YOUNG business couple have vowed to fight on despite being defrauded of close to $100,000 by a “trusted employee”.
When Culburra Beach couple, Craig and Cheryl Stanton, who own and run Kitchens and Bathrooms Rock at Bomaderry, hired Maryanne Spresser as an extra office staff member, the thought they had found the “dream employee”.
She never missed a day’s work, was extremely efficient, was caring and nice - the perfect fit for their growing company.
The couple had not long had their third child and Cheryl was working three days a week as well as running the family home, and Ms Spresser seemed a godsend in helping with the business.
That was September 2012 – in 12 months, in a calculated series of deceptions, she defrauded the company of close to $100,000 and left it with a string of unpaid bills and debts.
Ms Spresser will be sentenced in Nowra Local Court on July 7 after pleading guilty to seven counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage or cause disadvantage by deception and one count of destroy or conceal accounting record to obtain financial advantage or cause disadvantage.
The court heard Ms Spresser used her children’s bank accounts to electronically transfer thousands of dollars, failed to pay accounts, instead siphoning the money, even depositing it into an account she especially established.
Following an extensive investigation and paper trail, police discovered on 78 separate occasions she transferred money to her son’s account, valuing close to $71,000.
She also extended the limit of the company’s Caltex fuel cards and allowed extra items to be purchased other than fuel and then bought gift cards, which she later redeemed.
While paying bills, police said Ms Spresser would change the account and BSB numbers, to her own accounts and those of two of her children.
She even set up a business account at Office Works in Nowra, racking up a bill close to $4000.
“We hired Maryanne to undertake office duties,” Mrs Stanton said.
“She assured us she could do the accounts and look after the showroom and reception.
“We hired her in September 2012 and she was fantastic. She was efficient, did the job, little did we know two months later she started siphoning money off us.
“She was very clever. Our accounts would show money being paid to various companies we deal with, but she had changed the BSB and account numbers.
“It showed up she had paid the account – we thought everything was fine, we had no idea the money wasn’t going through.
“She even managed to do the same thing with the Australian Tax Office.
“And all the while this was going on she would sit next to me in the office and act as if nothing was happening.
“It was very calculated and manipulative.
“It’s been heartbreaking – we started the business with a $10,000 loan five years ago and built it up to what it is today only to have this happen.”
The couple eventually discovered the deception, but not before close to $100,000 went missing from the business’s accounts.
“We couldn’t understand what was going on,” she said.
“We thought we might have been under-quoting on jobs and changed our computer system that helps with that. We did a stock take in case we were losing a lot of materials. We looked everywhere but couldn’t find where the money was going.”
It wasn’t until Mrs Stanton answered a phone call from the ATO saying her company hadn’t made a payment she discovered what was happening.
“I knew it was wrong because the day before I had seen the account where money had been transferred to the ATO,” she said.
Worse was to come, discovering how many outstanding bills the company had.
For the past six months they have worked tirelessly to repay their debts.
The dream of owning their own home is gone, they have sold off possessions, borrowed money from the bank and family and even laid off staff.
On top of that an ACT company they do business with went “belly up”, costing the company $40,000.
“It’s been a tough 12 months but we are coming out the other side,” Mrs Stanton said.
“The support we have had from suppliers and other businesses has been unbelievable. It restored our faith in people.
“Our staff have been superb, they have been working so hard.”