Dental clinic worker claims medical condition 'made her steal'

Roxanne Arsi was sentenced to community detention on fraud charges. Photo: Tracy Neal
Roxanne Arsi was sentenced to community detention on fraud charges. Photo: Tracy Neal
A dental clinic worker who diverted more than $4000 in customer payments to her own pocket told police she had a medical condition that “made her steal”.

Roxanne Joy Lamong Arsi was this week sentenced to four months of community detention on six charges of altering a document - invoices sent by the clinic - with intent to defraud after she admitted the charges last year.

The particular medical condition wasn’t outlined among her various other health challenges described at sentencing in the Nelson District Court on Tuesday, but Judge Brian Callaghan noted her previous similar offending and her issues with gambling.

Arsi arrived at court wearing a mask, supported by her mother who was also masked up. An earlier sentencing date was adjourned when Arsi claimed to have had Covid and couldn’t attend court.

Last year the court heard that her bookkeeping job at DentalCare Nelson required her to send invoices to customers on a generic template via a work mobile phone.

But over a few days in May last year, the 28-year-old managed to direct $4140 in payments to her personal bank account, the Nelson District Court was told.

On May 12, 2023, she invoiced a customer for $220 but gave her personal bank account number, to which the money was paid.

Over the following days, she repeated the process with other customers, this time to the tune of $1000 and then $2200, according to the summary of facts.

Arsi went on to invoice another customer $30, again sending her own bank details and then instructed the dental centre to refund a $500 voucher on behalf of another customer into her personal account.

The voucher’s record card was later found to have been tampered with by Arsi.

Her final act of thievery was on May 23, when she directed another invoice for $190 to her account.

“So, quite a bit,” Judge Callaghan said in repeating the figures.

When she was arrested, Arsi told the police she had a “medical condition” that made her steal, but did not reveal any further details of her claim.

Many of the payments have since been reversed by banks, leaving $1440 outstanding, which Arsi has been ordered to pay in reparation.

Judge Callaghan accepted she had personal issues as a result of a challenging past, of which details were not mentioned in open court.

“Clearly, there’s an issue with gambling but I’m not quite convinced your personal issues directly led to your offending.”

Judge Callaghan said neither was he discounting their effect on her ability to function and the way she thought and acted.

“Maybe they’re avoidance techniques deployed to cope with your past,” he said.

Judge Callaghan acknowledged Arsi had her mother to support her and given her personal circumstances a community-based sanction was appropriate, but community work wasn’t sufficient to hold her accountable for her actions.

Arsi was also sentenced to 12 months of supervision with conditions that she undertakes counselling and treatment for gambling.

 - By Tracy Neal

 - Open Justice multimedia journalist, Nelson-Marlborough