Former Clive Peeters accountant Sonya Causer has been sentenced to eight years prison over the embezzlement of $19 million from the failed electronics retailer.
Causer, who pleaded guilty, was found to have used her position as payroll officer to siphon funds into eight bank accounts used to purchase 44 real estate properties, several motor vehicles, jewellery and shares between July 2007 and July 2009.
Justice Forrest of the Victorian Supreme Court described the theft as "one of the largest, if not the largest, thefts perpetrated by a person in a position of trust in the history of this State" and handed down and eight year sentence, with a five year non-parole period.
The court had heard submissions that Causer suffered a "delusional disorder" in which she regarded herself a "property wizard". The court heard this was related to the anxiety and depression associated with raising two autistic children, which put great pressure on Causer's marriage and home life.
But Justice Forrest noted that the crime nonetheless required meticulous planning to avoid being caught.
But this assertion was rejected by Justice Forrest.
"It is clear that the cash flow of the company was significantly compromised by your actions at a time when it was under financial stress, and Mr Smith's concerns are understandable," Justice Forrest said in handing down the decision.
"However, there were a number of other factors, independent of your actions, which also contributed to the company's collapse. I accept the prosecution's position that your actions were one of a number of factors which contributed to the demise of the company, but that they could not be regarded as a "primary, dominant or triggering cause" of the collapse."
Justice Forrest noted in the judgment [PDF] that Causer could have received a sentence of ten years and six months prison had it not been for her guilty plea, cooperation with police, clean record and restitution. The mother of two has assisted the authorities in recovering some $16.326 million of the $19 million stolen during the two-year spending spree.
The Judge also took note of the impact of Causer's actions on her family - which has now sold its family home and left Causer's husband to care for two autistic children.
"I have little doubt, given your background, that you will not re-offend, and indeed I hope that upon your release you are able to return to your family and the workforce and become a useful member of society as you had been prior to July 2007," Justice Forrest said.