A Batemans Bay woman stole more than $1.1 million from her employers, using every cent of the ripped-off funds to feed her son’s crippling gambling addiction, Wollongong District Court heard yesterday.
Diane Felkin spent nearly eight years defrauding a Batemans Bay car dealership, transferring funds from the business into her own accounts before handing it over to her son, who spent it at casinos and online gaming sites.
The 61-year-old made more than 100 unauthorised transactions while working at Batemans Bay Motors, covering the missing money with references to non-existent vehicle payouts, staff holiday pay and bonuses, loans and purported transfers to the Australian Tax Office.
Ms Felkin admitted to stealing more than $100,000 when she was questioned about the dodgy transfers in 2008 but made no reference to her son’s out-of-control gambling problem, instead telling the owners she had spent the money on “bills”.
Giving evidence yesterday, Ms Felkin conceded she was in denial at the time about the devastating extent of the fraud but had deliberately avoided outing her true motivation for the offences.
“I had just spent seven years trying to save him, I wasn’t going to drop him in it; he was finally getting to a good place,” she said.
Ms Felkin told the court her son’s severe habit began around age 20 and gradually “took over both their lives”, as he continued to demand money from her, threatening to end his own life if he didn’t have cash to gamble.
Fearing her son would commit suicide like her other child, Ms Felkin squeezed her own bank accounts to feed her son’s addiction and when that dried up, she turned to her employers.
Between 2001 and 2007, the woman made 114 unauthorised transactions from her employers’ accounts, using her unfettered access to pilfer $1.150,862 into three Commonwealth Bank accounts in her name, facts before the court said.
In March 2008, the dealership’s owners questioned her about the fraud and she offered to pay back $175,000, transferring $200,000 to them about two months later.
Further investigation revealed the true extent of the fraud and the businesses’ former owners are still seeking more than $950,000 compensation.
Ms Felkin told the court yesterday she had fed every stolen dollar into her son’s habit, depositing the cash into his accounts or using it to pay off his credit cards.
She said her son and his former partner would regularly drive to casinos in Melbourne and Canberra to gamble, despite her pleading with him to stop.
“Every time I took money and gave it to my son, I begged him not to ask for more ... I would leave some money in my account until the next lot (had to be paid), I just tried to drag out the cash,” she said.
“I asked him to get help, to go to Gamblers Anonymous or talk to his father but he wouldn’t.”
Ms Felkin said she now found it difficult to live in the community, particularly after a CD recording of the 2008 meeting with her one-time employers had been circulated around the town.
Defence solicitor Mr Losciano conceded Ms Felkin’s crimes were a breach of trust but argued his client was motivated by a troubled son who had threatened to take his own life if she didn’t give him money.
Mr Losciano told the court Ms Felkin had showed contrition for the offences, had no criminal record and had been taking anti-depressants for many years for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ms Felkin pleaded guilty to 18 counts of obtaining money by deception and a further 86 charges are set to be taken into account on sentencing.
Judge Paul Conlon reserved his sentence judgment and adjourned the matter to next Wednesday.