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The manager of a junior football team pocketed fundraising cash then set up fake emails to cover her tracks, a court has heard.
Lynne Maree Huntley (41), of Henley, said her duplicitous acts had seen her shunned by the community and her children bullied at school.
"I was in the worst place at the time and did what I did to get my family out of a dire situation. It was never premeditated as it’s been made out," she told the Otago Daily Times.
"It all spiralled out of control and there was no way back."
She pleaded guilty to theft in a special relationship and received a 12-month deferred sentence in the Dunedin District Court this week.
Of the $3720 she swindled from the Green Island 10th grade football team, there was $352 left to pay back.
In July last year, the club decided to enter a tournament in Wanaka at the end of September, and so began fundraising to cover the costs of accommodation, food, kit and bags.
As the money trickled in over the next five weeks, Huntley transferred it into an account she used for everyday expenditure.
Counsel Jim Takas explained his client was moving house at the time, had a lot of outstanding bills and could not cope.
"Originally she intended to repay the money but couldn’t do so."
It was all gone.
While some victims expressed their anger at how the money had been frittered away, Mr Takas told the court it had only paid for one Netflix bill and one trip to KFC.
By November, the unpaid invoices were piling up.
"Rather than simply confess ... you not only put your head in the sand but you tried to cover up what you’d done," Judge Emma Smith said.
When other team managers quizzed Huntley, she went to extreme lengths to obfuscate, "creating a fictitious third person who was supposedly a budget advisor", court documents revealed.
She fabricated emails for this mysterious person and blamed them for the funds going missing.
Police involvement saw her eventually admit the fraud.
"I’m a good person and well respected in my community so this was very much out of character," Huntley told the ODT.
However, it was not the first time her deception had landed her in the dock
— in 2009, she was convicted of dishonestly using a computer system in her role as office administrator at Smiths City.
Huntley was sentenced to 80 hours’ community work and ordered to repay the $1254 she stole on that occasion.
Recently, the court heard, the defendant had fronted a group of angry parents at a "brutal" restorative justice conference.
"They grilled you about every single dollar, about what it was used for and why, and fair enough," Judge Smith said.
She noted a team coach had paid the creditors using his own money and had had to shelve family holiday plans as a result.
The judge was sympathetic to the defendant’s family and expected it would be a long time before the outrage subsided.
"If you offend in your community, you’ll be remembered in your community," she said.