El­der’s theft a mys­tery to court

The Weekend Post - - News - PETE MARTINELLI peter.martinelli@news.com.au

DOUBTS linger as to why a pil­lar of the Weipa com­mu­nity “un­der­mined her legacy” and em­bez­zled more than $30,000 in four days.

Judge David Reid said he was sus­pi­cious that pres­sure was brought to bear on former lo­cal coun­cil­lor Mary Ann Co­conut, 75, to de­fraud the TWAL Jus­tice In­dige­nous Cor­po­ra­tion – for which she served as di­rec­tor – in 2016.

“I am highly sus­pi­cious that there was sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure placed on you by oth­ers,” Judge Reid said.

Ms Co­conut re­fused to di­vulge where the money – about half of which still re­mains miss­ing – has gone, other than to tell de­fend­ing bar­ris­ter Michael Dal­ton that some of the money went to­ward a Toy­ota LandCruiser for her son. The ve­hi­cle now sits dam­aged and im­mo­bile in his front yard.

“My client has been a lit­tle tight-lipped,” Mr Dal­ton told Cairns District Court.

“The mo­ti­va­tion was not one of per­sonal greed; rather she came from a strug­gling and poor fam­ily and took the funds to ben­e­fit her fam­ily.”

The court heard Ms Coco- nut – a Thanikwithi el­der who started a Weipa do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ser­vice, served as a li­ai­son for child safety and was a mem­ber of the Western Cape Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, ac­cessed the in­dige­nous cor­po­ra­tion’s credit union ac­counts four times in late Oc­to­ber and early Novem­ber 2016.

She trans­ferred $13,600 to her own ac­count and on a fifth oc­ca­sion trans­ferred $16,500 from the credit union ac­count to pay for the LandCruiser.

Ms Co­conut’s crime was dis­cov­ered shortly after dur­ing a rou­tine au­dit and she stepped down as cor­po­ra­tion di­rec­tor.

She has since paid back $2000.

Judge Reid said Ms Co­conut’s ac­tions were a “mo­ment of mad­ness” for a woman who sin­gle-hand­edly raised seven chil­dren and was a key­note speaker in Toronto, Canada at an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence for the Bar­nett Val­ues Cen­tre.

“She was an ex­em­plar of the com­mu­nity and over four days she did this … some­thing is go­ing on here,” Judge Reid said. He or­dered Ms Co­conut to serve a two year jail term, sus­pended over two years.

“The ad­verse af­fects this may have to your legacy in the com­mu­nity is pun­ish­ment enough,” Judge Reid said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.