School secretary jailed over $430k fraud

 

A finance secretary embezzled more than $420,000 from a Catholic primary school then stole thousands of dollars from her daughter's netball club while on bail, a court has been told.

Natasha Jane Hollier, 44, faced Brisbane District Court on Monday where she was sentenced to seven years' jail after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud.

Hollier was employed as finance secretary at a Mitchelton Catholic school when she began hand writing cheques, stealing school fee deposits from parents and forging the signature of another teacher.

Over six years, Hollier swindled more than $423,000 from the school then lied when the school principal confronted her about the missing funds in August 2014.

Natasha Jane Hollier pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud. Picture: Supplied
Natasha Jane Hollier pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud. Picture: Supplied


Prosecutor Erin Kelly said it was not until Brisbane Catholic Education conducted an investigation that the true extent of Hollier's fraud was revealed.

"She stated that she would repay the money, but never did," Ms Kelly said.

"She resigned four days later."

While on bail for the school offences, Hollier defrauded her daughter's netball club out of $15,321 while volunteering as treasurer.

The court was told that between June and October 2019, Hollier made 80 unauthorised bank transfers from Queen of Apostles Netball Club into her own bank account and her daughter's account.

Ms Kelly said when the president of the club confronted Hollier she "blamed it on her nephew and requested that the president not make a complaint to police".

The court also heard that Hollier had been convicted of social security fraud after she was overpaid by Centrelink between 1999-2000.

Barrister Liam Dollar told the court that Hollier was a "devoted family woman" who had used the money to help pay for her sisters' medical bills and legal fees.

She also used the money to give her daughters better opportunities through extra-curricular activities, the court heard.

Mr Dollar said Hollier, who grew up in Ipswich, had significant mental and physical health issues and felt "deeply embarrassed" by her offending.

Judge Michael Byrne accepted that she had taken steps to rehabilitate and she had "suffered from significant and quite debilitating" depression.

But he agreed with a psychologist's assessment that it was not the cause of her offending.

"Your depression didn't cause you to take the money, but it blunted the reasoning that might otherwise be expected of someone else to apply," Judge Byrne said.

"It is always difficult to impose a sentence on someone who is essentially a good person, but balanced against that is the extreme nature of the offending."

Hollier was sentenced to seven years' jail and will be eligible for parole on March 13, 2022.

President of the Queen of Apostles Netball Club Monique Varricchio said she was pleased the matter had been finalised.

"The club is extremely happy that justice has been served and she has been sentenced," Ms Varricchio said.

"We would like to thank the police for their hard work in bringing the charges against her not only for the club but for the school as well."

Originally published as School secretary jailed over $430k fraud