Grafton fraudster mum escapes jail sentence

THE victims of a woman who defrauded their company of $137,656 were devastated when a magistrate sentenced her to a good behaviour bond.

The directors of DRA Architects Pty Ltd, Warren Steele and Adrian Borsato, were in the gallery at Grafton Court House for the sentencing of former employee Jana Audrey Clark.

Outside the court, Mr Steele, whose company employed Clark, 35, from 2009-2015 in its Grafton office, said the leniency of the sentence was a shock.

"For her to get an 18-month bond and a compensation plan is devastating for us really," Mr Steele said.

"I was always prepared to accept the decision of the court, but compared to some other recent cases, it seems the punishment does not fit the crime."

The court accepted a victim impact statement from the company which showed how Clark had become a trusted employee, who had had access to a company credit card.

>> EXPLAINED: How a Grafton company was defrauded $137,000

Clark started in the company's Grafton office as a secretary on $33,000 a year. Over the next six years she was promoted a number of times and, by the time of her dismissal last year, her salary stood at $47,500.

"During early March 2012, we began to become aware that the business was not performing as well as it had in the past to the extent that two staff members were made redundant, two were asked to work three days per week, including Jana, the remaining staff were asked to work four days per week to reduce the business's overall running costs and the Tamworth office was closed," the statement read.

"All throughout this period, Jana was well aware of the hardship, stress and toll being experienced by both directors and other staff members and yet, as we have now discovered, continued to withdraw sums of money and pay her personal accounts.

"... Given the deceit, dishonesty and betrayal displayed by Ms Clark during her years of employment and, in our opinion, there has been minimal effort, to date, to repay DRA Architects, we find it difficult to believe Jana will make any effort to repay us and hope the court system will put something in place to ensure Jana repays her debt to DRA Architects in addition to her debt to society."

Clark was unrepresented after pleading guilty when she was first charged, after Mr Steele discovered her offending in May last year.

During her interview with Detective Sergeant Graham Burke on October 12, Clark told police there were no gambling or drug problems, just "a single mother living beyond her means".

Acknowledging the pre-sentence report prepared for Clark, magistrate Robyn Denes said Clark was remorseful and unlikely to re-offend.

"It appears it was something you did once and from then it was a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul," Ms Denes said.

The magistrate said this sentence would give Clark a criminal record and effectively ended her good name in the community.

"Businesses rely on people in positions of trust doing the right thing," she said.

In addition to the bond, she was ordered to repay $137,656 to DRA Architects.