Pokie addiction compelled Casino CEO’s fraud
AN OUT of control pokie addiction compelled two Casino women to engage in systematic fraud of their employer, a NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption public inquiry has heard.
Linda Stewart, the former CEO of Casino-Boolangle Local Aboriginal Land Council, and Veronica Skinner, its former administrative assistant, cashed fraudulently issued cheques worth an estimated $80,000 between 2010 and 2012 to fund their pokie habit at the Casino RSM Club.
The inquiry heard that Ms Stewart lost an estimated $145,000 at the pokies in a little more than two years to the end of 2012, despite earning just $873 per week after tax.
"If I got paid and I went to the club, that whole pay went into the machines," Ms Stewart told the inquiry.
Similarly, Ms Skinner lost an estimated $63,000 between September 2010 and the end of 2011, while earning $545 per week after tax.
The two women developed an agreement to split the proceeds of their fraud 50-50 to fund their trips to the club, where they often gambled together.
They relied on the misplaced trust of Land Council board members, who would sign cheques on their request, sometimes blank, often with the words "please pay cash".
A range of false scenarios for payment were given, including the issuing of fake timesheets for non-existent contract work, petty cash, and money needed to run NAIDOC events.
They also cashed other employees' superannuation cheques to fund their habit.
The inquiry heard that there was no established internet banking system in place and all cheques were handled personally by Ms Stewart or Ms Skinner.
Ms Skinner said she couldn't "remember how it all started", but it was "probably" because of their shared gambling habit when probed by counsel assisting ICAC Mr Scott Robertson.
She conceded she was acting "dishonestly" and was "being deceptive", and admitted to breaching the trust of the whole local Aboriginal community in her fraud.
The public inquiry also heard Ms Stewart, who had been employed by the Land Council since 2000 and promoted to CEO in 2008, had zero training in financial matters, never had a performance review, and was largely "left to her own devices".
Ms Stewart told the inquiry she resisted the introduction of internet banking because she thought she would have access to more money more easily.
"I was concerned I'd take more money," she said.
The alleged fraud was ultimately uncovered by the Land Council's bookkeeper, Charley van Rotterdam, who realised something was "desperately wrong" when his own pay cheque was cashed weeks before he was due to get paid.
The inquiry heard a series of cheques totalling about $8,340.35 were issued in Mr Van Rotterdam's name and never received by him.
The CBLALC was in a "precarious" financial situation during this time, owing about $145,000 including outstanding super contributions and debts with the Australian Tax Office.
It had sustained four consecutive years of losses above $60,000 between 2007-08 and 2010-11.
Ms Skinner told the inquiry she had an addiction to gambling and "the cheques were a way of feeding that addiction", and she was sorry for what she did.
The matter is due to be heard again by ICAC on
The ICAC Commissioner, the Hon Megan Latham directed submissions from the counsel assisting to be served before May 26 and submissions in reply before June 16.
ICAC is expected to deliver a final report after June 16, which may include findings of serious corrupt conduct and a possible recommendation to seek advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about criminal court proceedings.