A fraudster who ripped off a Canberra childcare centre to help pay for her lavish Luna Park wedding has walked free after a judge found it would be "unsatisfactory" for her to go back to jail while heavily pregnant.
In January, Magistrate Glenn Theakston sentenced Claudia Gelonese to seven months in jail after the 27-year-old pleaded guilty to three fraud charges.
The sentence was to be suspended once Gelonese had served four months behind bars, but she was released on bail after just 38 days pending the outcome of an appeal against what she argued was a "manifestly excessive" penalty.
In the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday, prosecutors agreed with Gelonese's lawyers on a proposal that would spare her a return to jail and have the sentence set aside.
They asked Justice Michael Elkaim to re-sentence Gelonese to seven months in jail, but to suspend what remains of the jail term immediately upon Gelonese entering into a 12-month good behaviour order.
Justice Elkaim agreed and did so, saying this approach was "reasonable" and "fair" given Gelonese's pregnancy and the potential impacts of COVID-19.
He said Gelonese was due to give birth in late September, around the same time she would be due for release from jail had he dismissed her appeal and placed her back in custody on Tuesday.
Gelonese having to go back to jail would be "an unsatisfactory result", the judge said.
"It seems to me that this is a situation that should not be allowed to continue," Justice Elkaim said.
The judge also ordered that Gelonese pay $7771.58 in reparations to the owner of the Gungahlin childcare centre she defrauded.
Agreed facts tendered to the ACT Magistrates Court when Gelonese was first sentenced say she was employed at the childcare centre as an assistant director, before being promoted to director in May 2018.
In the months following Gelonese's promotion, the centre owner confronted her on several occasions about her unauthorised use of a company debit card.
In July 2018, the owner asked Gelonese to provide receipts for transactions she said were for childcare expenses, but she did not provide them.
The next month, the owner asked Gelonese to explain 38 transactions totalling $3397.44. A number of these, including a $670 bill for invitations, were for her wedding expenses.
Gelonese agreed she had been using the card for personal expenses, and told the owner she would pay the money back.
She did not and 10 days later another payment of $2970, again for wedding expenses, appeared on the company card.
During August 2018, the centre owner also discovered that Gelonese had been emailing clients requesting payments and providing her personal bank account details instead of the centre's.
Gelonese agreed during a police interview that she had emailed six parents with her personal bank account details, and that five of them had made payments totalling $2401.14.
The 27-year-old held back tears when she was sentenced in January and hauled away to jail with no family or friends in attendance.
This was in stark contrast to the scenes in court on Tuesday, when Gelonese exchanged grins with a large number of supporters seated in the public gallery as she learnt that she would not be taken back in custody.