Nought to show for worker’s $ 1⁄2m

Taranaki Daily News - - News - Belinda Feek

She worked for the firm for 40 years, start­ing out as a fresh-faced 17-year-old high school leaver.

But by the time Sharyn Joy Ada McFar­lane left the Te Awa­mutu law firm of Ed­monds Judd, she’d fleeced them of nearly $500,000.

Po­lice are con­fi­dent she has stolen more – they just can’t prove it be­cause ANZ bank records go back only seven years. McFar- lane’s got noth­ing to show for the theft, ei­ther.

It ap­pears she frit­tered away the money on gam­bling and booze, both of which she is ad­dicted to.

McFar­lane ap­peared in the Palmer­ston North District Court last month and pleaded guilty to six charges; false ac­count­ing by an em­ployee, theft by fail­ing to ac­count, theft by a per­son in a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship, us­ing an al­tered doc­u­ment and two charges of false ac­count­ing.

For 15 years to July 24 last year, she stole $469,139.81.

The po­lice sum­mary says McFar­lane is now ‘‘heav­ily mort­gaged and she has sig­nif­i­cant credit card debt’’.

‘‘She has no eq­uity avail­able to of­fer as repa­ra­tion and is es­sen­tially in­sol­vent.’’ She also now has health is­sues and is be­ing cared for by a Palmer­ston North res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity.

For­tu­nately for foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors, they’ve been able to use Ed­monds Judd records, which takes the of­fend­ing back to 1998 with a to­tal 221 sep­a­rate trans­ac­tions. But po­lice be­lieve it stretches as far back as 1988, and say they have iden­ti­fied a ‘‘large num­ber of other trans­ac­tions’’ as ‘‘al­most cer­tainly be­ing mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tions but they have been ex­cluded be­cause of the in­abil­ity to be en­tirely ac­cu­rate’’.

McFar­lane be­gan work­ing at the firm in a ju­nior role in 1973, be­fore be­ing pro­moted to of­fice ac­count- ant in 1995. It was only af­ter she left, in Septem­ber last year af­ter be­ing made re­dun­dant, that her of­fend­ing be­gan to un­ravel af­ter the firm was con­tacted by a client who wanted to dis­cuss their af­fairs. Af­ter dig­ging deeper, in­ves­ti­ga­tors found McFar­lane’s of­fend­ing was ‘‘ex­tremely com­plex’’ and she’d used seven ac­counts to laun­der the stolen money.

A fur­ther 38 client ac­counts were found to have funds si­phoned from them.

Her method in­volved tak­ing a por­tion of funds de­posited to the firm and putting it in her own bank ac­count.

Of­ten she would cre­ate bo­gus client re­quests, some­times cou­pled with a le­git­i­mate trans­ac­tion for the client.

The largest sin­gle trans­ac­tion was $10,000.

Ed­monds Judd man­ag­ing part­ner Si­mon Br­danovic said McFar­lane first came to the firm straight

Cap­tion2: Sir Maui Po­mare Day was cel­e­brated at Owae Marae in Waitara on Satur­day.

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