Heroin addict dips into work till

LIGHT fingers and a costly heroin habit led Lismore man Luke Albertini-McClelland to lift more than $3500 cash from the Sydney International Airport Duty Free where he worked.

Just three weeks after being hired as a sales assistant in the busy store, Albertini-McClelland, 27, began stealing cash from the till. This week he pleaded guilty in Lismore Local Court to stealing $3580 while employed as a clerk between December 8, 2008, and May 24, 2009.

Magistrate Michael Dakin sentenced him to nine months' jail, immediately suspended, instead placing him on a good behaviour bond.

Defence lawyer James Fuggle outlined his client's heroin habit at the time, but a report before the court showed Albertini-McClelland now had 'a very positive prognosis' in his rehabilitation after moving back home so his supportive family could give assistance. A new job meant he would repay the stolen money to his former employer.

Mr Fuggle said his client was a young man who had now turned the corner, and the court could be confident of his rehabilitation.

Mr Dakin said the duty free store, after noticing cash variances, used a security camera to detect the defendant putting money from the till in his pocket.

Because there were 20 instances of theft over six months, Mr Dakin said this aggravated the offending because it was not an isolated, but a course of dishonest conduct. While heroin addiction may explain the need for the money it did not excuse the offending, he said.

He took into account Albertini-McClelland's successful completion of the Magistrate's Early Referral Into Treatment Program (MERIT) that treats drug users, but said the dishonest conduct to steal from an employer was deserving of harsh punishment.

“He gave you an opportunity, but you repaid him by stealing from him,” Mr Dakin said.

After ordering the jail sentence be suspended, Mr Dakin said Albertini-McClelland must place himself under the supervision of Probation Services because of his former addiction for as long as necessary.

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