Woman repays charity's stolen $21,000

A woman who stole more than $21,000 from an Otago charity had shown an ''appalling'' attitude while being dealt with on the matter, a Dunedin District Court judge said yesterday.

Jacqueline Elizabeth McKenzie (45) was sentenced to five months' home detention for using a company credit card to buy personal items costing $21,024 while working as branch manager for Schizophrenia Fellowship Otago, between July 2011 and November 2013.

McKenzie used the money for personal expenses such as travel costs and rubbish skip hire, and to buy products for a business she was operating on the side, Judge Kevin Phillips said.

McKenzie pleaded guilty in June to one charge of theft by a person in a special relationship, but initially disputed the amount of money taken.

''Your attitude to this matter has been appalling,'' Judge Phillips told McKenzie.

''That you have continued to cover up, argue and deny the obvious is a matter I must take into account.''

McKenzie appeared for a disputed facts hearing on August 12 over the amount of money taken.

However, the hearing never took place, as McKenzie eventually agreed to the amount.

Judge Phillips instead issued her an ultimatum to repay the money by yesterday or face jail time.

Yesterday morning, McKenzie, now of Christchurch, fronted up with the money, to be paid to the Department of Corrections.

A large group of Schizophrenia Fellowship staff was on hand yesterday as McKenzie appeared for sentencing at the Dunedin District Court.

Public defender Andrew More said McKenzie was remorseful.

Mr More sought a sentence of community detention and community work.

McKenzie could then give back to the community, he said.

''She is remorseful. It's taken some time for us to get to this position, but we are there now.

''A guilty plea has been entered and she has taken full responsibility.''

Judge Phillips said stealing while in a management position from an organisation funded mainly by donations was ''in my view, at the higher end of an abuse of trust''.

McKenzie had misled staff about her entitlements, threatened to discipline them for questioning her decision-making and did not keep appropriate records, the court heard.

In a ''somewhat peculiar'' move, she had issued an affidavit outlining her remorse, Judge Phillips said.

''I do not believe that remorse to be genuine.''

The sentence of home detention would ''not be easy for a woman of your arrogance'', he said.

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