A family who built a small business from the ground has been left "physically sick" and emotionally distressed from being forced to close down after a former employee defrauded them of nearly $20,000.
Naomi Reeves, 38, appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to five counts of obtaining property by deception and one of theft.
Facts tendered to the court states that the Karabar woman was working as office manager of Insulpro, which incorporates The Solar Family Pty Ltd, between July and November in 2019 when she defrauded the companies of about $19,500.
This involved instances of her transferring money from the businesses into her own account, including getting a customer to transfer $9000 in six transactions and amending invoices for amounts to be paid to her.
She was caught after the business's accountant found several discrepancies.
Even after being relieved of her role, she used one of the companies' fuel cards 34 times until late January 2020.
In court, four victim impact statements outlining how the financial and emotional impacts were read out.
One of the owners said Reeves gained their trust after saying she was a family person.
"The losses we have experienced are immeasurable," the victim wrote.
"It is unconscionable that people like the defendant do things like this to law-abiding, community-oriented like us.
"We are devastated that the dream we had was shattered by one person."
The victim said she could no longer visit the warehouse or drive around the location because it "makes me feel physically sick".
Another victim said he became "extremely angry and depressed" after learning about Reeves' crimes and the effects were gut wrenching.
"Each time an additional theft was uncovered, it was emotionally distressing," he said.
The victim said the brand's reputation had been damaged, forcing them to invest some of their personal savings to keep it going before making the tough decision to close.
He said she took money that could have been used for his own children.
"The defendant's actions have rocked me ... unable to fully trust employees, which is unfair to those actually deserved to be trusted," he said.
Defence lawyer Andrew Fraser asked for a community-based sentence, saying his client was troubled and had numerous physical and mental health issues.
Mr Fraser said she was "disgusted and disappointed in herself" and forced to retire due to her medical conditions.
Medical evidence was tendered, which included neurological material and a report that outlined "a litany of issues" and psychiatric treatment.
It is unconscionable that people like the defendant do things like this to law-abiding, community-oriented like us.Victim
Prosecutor Alexandra Back argued for a full-time jail term, saying Reeves was in a position of trust and the impacts were significant.
"This is not an ASX 200 company when the loss of that amount can easily be absorbed by the business," Ms Back said.
She said there was a significant breach and abuse of trust as Reeves committed the offences "under the nose of the complainants".
The prosecutor said this offending was not an "uncharacteristic aberration" and that deterring Reeves and others in the community was paramount.
Magistrate Robert Cook said Reeves' offending was premediated and involved planning to ensure she was not caught.
"This wasn't a large corporation that had relevant protection in place. This was a family company trying to do its best in the capital," Mr Cook said.
He said that while medical evidence showed Reeves having "significant physical and underlying mental health concerns", it did not impact on the decision to impose a jail term.
The court heard Reeves had already repaid nearly $13,000 and is expected to repay more once she receives backdated JobSeeker payments.
She is scheduled for sentencing on November 16.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: