A man caused a family rift after being employed by his sister
and brother-in-law to manage their Omakau farm and using the
farm credit card to buy more than $76,000 worth of goods for
himself over three years, the Alexandra District Court heard
''You are never going to be trusted by your family again and
I suspect you'll never again be welcome at family
gatherings,'' Judge Roy Wade told Murray John Galt, (53),
driver, of Mosgiel.
Galt admitted one representative charge of dishonestly using
a CRT card between May 2, 2004, and November 17, 2007, with
intent to obtain goods and services.
The amount involved was $76,921. In a '' gross breach of
trust'', Galt had used the card to buy numerous personal
items including petrol, food, diesel and an overseas holiday
for his family, Judge Wade said.
The defendant's sister, Judith McNeill, and brother-in-law,
Stuart McNeill, told the court they employed Galt at their
farm, Lauder Heights, because they trusted him.
''Who better than my brother?'' Mrs McNeill said. His
dishonesty had taken an emotional and physical toll on the
family, and he had tried to ''ruin them,'' she said. Mr
McNeill said they were ''devastated '' by the level of
betrayal and the lack of remorse.
Judge Wade said the offence was all the more significant when
Galt's actions had affected such close relatives. He believed
the offending was ''the tip of the iceberg and there's a lot
yet to be uncovered''. The defendant might face proceedings
in the civil jurisdiction.
''You are not out of the woods yet.''
Counsel Brian Kilkelly said all the money had been repaid.
The defendant was a valued member of staff at his present
place of employment and his employer was aware of the court
case. He was unlikely to offend again.
The defendant had ''taken on board'' the comments in the
victim impact reports, Mr Galt said. There had been a verbal
agreement between him and his sister on what the farm credit
card could be used for but nothing in writing.
There was civil action under way between the defendant and
his mother over $200,000 ''inheritance money'' and whether
that was a loan or a gift, Mr Kilkelly said. Judge Wade said
Galt could not ''buy himself out of trouble'' by simply
repaying the credit card money.
He sentenced him to 300 hours' community work and said the
conviction would be one of the greatest penalties faced by
Galt as it would affect how potential employers viewed him in
Losing the trust of his family was also a major and
''self-inflected'' penalty, Judge Wade said. Outside court,
Sergeant Derek Ealson, of Alexandra, said the police
investigation into the matter, which started in 2008, was
''ongoing''. He would like to hear from anyone who could
provide information about the movement of stock or goods from
Lauder Heights farm between 2004 and 2007.