A Dunedin woman who fell in love with an unknown man on the
internet had been "scammed", but that was no excuse, Judge
Dominic Flatley said when sentencing her for stealing $7136
from her employer.
It was one thing to use her own funds, but it was a
completely different thing to take and use her employer's
funds, the judge told the woman in the Dunedin District Court
Delwyn Mary Pauling (42), unemployed, had admitted stealing
cash from her then employer, in July, and making a false
statement to police.
She was convicted, sentenced to 150 hours' community work and
ordered to pay the $3200 of the reparation outstanding.
Employed as area manager for Rough Diamond Ltd to oversee the
running of four local Thai restaurants, Pauling went to the
premises several times between July 21 and 25 and emptied
their drop safes of the daily takings.
The cash taken amounted to $7136 and she transferred the
money through Western Union to an unknown receiver.
On July 27, Pauling rang her employer and said the company
car had been broken into. She had forgotten to do the weekly
banking and the money, which had been in the car, was gone,
She then phoned police and made a formal report of theft.
Her explanation for taking the money was she had fallen in
love with an unknown man on the internet. He claimed he would
repay the money when they were finally together, she stated.
She incurred a considerable personal debt as a consequence of
Public defender Campbell Savage said the scammer started off
being very plausible.
Pauling was perhaps swept away by the hope he might be "a
dream come true".
When the scammer became aware Pauling had access to cash, he
"put the word on her" to assist him.
She thought he would repay the money when he finally made his
way to New Zealand, "which he never did".
Pauling had lost her job, was made bankrupt and her furniture
had been repossessed.
A conviction and the things that had befallen her outside the
courtroom might be sufficient, Mr Savage submitted.
Judge Flatley said Pauling would not be treated differently
from similar offenders. Her actions involved a degree of
sophistication. She reported the money stolen. And she made a
plan as to how to deal with the situation.
Imposing what he said was a discounted number of hours of
community work, the judge took into account the background
and that Pauling had no previous convictions.
Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker told the Otago
Daily Times that of the $1 million worth of scams
reported to Netsafe last year, three-quarters of the money
lost was through romance scams.
The money sent to scammers was almost always impossible to
recover, he said.
Any online requests for money, even with promises the money
would be repaid, should always send up a red flag, he said.
Advice is available online from organisations such as
NetSafe, dating websites and on scamwatch.govt.nz about what
to watch out for when getting to know someone online.
Mr Cocker said if a person suspected someone had created a
fake profile on a dating site and/or was a scammer, they
should report it to the site and Netsafe as quickly as