Employee of Auckland school stole $45,000 for greed and ‘shopping addiction’

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An employee at a South Auckland primary school stole more than $45,000 because of personal greed and an “apparent shopping addiction” while she worked there as an administration officer.

Manurewa woman Rosalie Conroy, 31, was sentenced to 11 months’ home detention in the Manukau District Court on Tuesday for charges relating to the theft of $45,295.95 in funds from Wiri Central School

Conroy was also charged for obtaining $20,000 worth of items from The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery, accessing the payroll system Novopay to obtain $24,478 for hours not worked, and making a false entry into a book for accounting purposes.

Some items Conroy brought for herself using the school’s money included an Apple iPad Pro 11, a smart TV, children’s toys, cosmetics and groceries.

The loss of funds from the school meant a number of school trips had to be cancelled and other equipment for students couldn’t be purchased.

Andrew Young, who was appearing for Conroy’s defence lawyer, Johnathan Wiles, told Judge Kiriana Tan that Conroy was heavily pregnant and due to give birth at the start of May, and she was also paying voluntary reparations of $20 a week to Novopay.

Young said Conroy was currently unemployed, but she was “open” to the possibility of work if she was given home detention.

Conroy’s offending had a significant financial and social impact on the school community, Crown prosecutor Thomas Reilly said.

Wiri Central School in South Auckland is a decile-one full primary school catering for students from years 1 to 8. It has a roll of 356 pupils.

Reilly read a victim impact statement from Wiri Central School principal Jan Donaldson, who said Conroy’s offending had been an “enormous breach of trust that took an emotional and professional toll”.

Donaldson described the events as a “punch in the guts”, and said it had been a “lonely and challenging time”.

Reilly noted: “The sense of shame she [Conroy] brought upon the school has been powerful.”

The offending had been uncovered in March 2019 when Donaldson met with management of the school’s account services and an altered invoice showed money had been paid to Conroy’s personal bank account rather than the school.

Reilly said the level and sophistication of the offending over 18 months, particularly in regard to falsified invoices, showed a significant degree of planning, and he suggested a starting point of three years’ imprisonment.

“Conroy’s motivation was nothing more complicated than greed and an apparent shopping addiction. She was not motivated by desperate financial need or substance addiction.

“This was not a momentary lapse but a sustained pattern of offending.”

The judge acknowledged Conroy had entered guilty pleas to the charges. She said Conroy had been employed at the school from May 2016 to April 2019, and her mother was also employed at the school as deputy principal.

Conroy was responsible for accounts and payroll for the school, including inputting payments and invoices.

“Your offending has had an enormous impact on both your mum and the school community,” the judge said.

“I accept you are remorseful,” the judge told Conroy directly, “and I know you are a mum of young children with another on the way, with a previous good record. But this offending wasn’t a one-off.”

The judge sentenced Conroy to 11 months’ home detention and ordered her to pay $5000 in reparations to the school.

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