200K DOG ACT

Char­ity boss steals from the blind

Herald Sun - - FRONT PAGE - SHAN­NON DEERY

A TOP boss from Guide Dogs Vic­to­ria has been busted rob­bing the blind, steal­ing more than $200,000 from the char­ity.

San­dro Ciri­anni, 49, was earn­ing $160,000 a year as the char­ity’s gen­eral man­ager when he be­gan steal­ing money to com­plete lav­ish ren­o­va­tions on his home, such as put­ting in a new pool.

He also racked up thou­sands of dol­lars of ex­penses eat­ing out, buy­ing per­sonal items and fill­ing his car with fuel us­ing the char­ity’s bank cards.

Ciri­anni (above), who has pleaded guilty to three charges of ob­tain­ing a fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage by de­cep­tion, has since re­paid the full sum stolen, as well as the cost of a foren­sic au­dit con­ducted by Guide Dogs Vic­to­ria. How­ever, his con­tri­tion may not save him from pri­son: County Court judge Su­san Co­hen this week would not rule out send­ing him to jail.

Ciri­anni’s lawyer, ar­gu­ing against a jail term, said other pris­on­ers would re­gard his steal­ing from a char­ity that sup­ports Vic­to­ri­ans with blind­ness or im­paired vi­sion as be­ing “like shoot­ing Bambi”.

Bren­dan Mur­phy, QC, said Ciri­anni suf­fered from a med­i­cal con­di­tion, and “if he gets a punch in the head, it is our sub­mis­sion he’s likely to die”.

He said Ciri­anni had an over­whelm­ing fear of death, and he had “wanted to squir­rel away what­ever he could to se­cure a fu­ture for the fam­ily”.

Ciri­anni had been at the char­ity for less than two years when he be­gan steal­ing. He quit three months be­fore his ama­teur­ish scam was de­tected.

The foren­sic au­dit be­gan af­ter three air­con­di­tion­ing units, found miss­ing dur­ing a 2016 stock­take, were traced to Ciri­anni’s Bun­doora home.

It un­cov­ered crimes span­ning al­most three years.

Ciri­anni fal­si­fied dozens of in­voices for ren­o­va­tions at his home, and sent them to Guide Dogs Vic­to­ria’s ac­counts de­part­ment for pay­ment.

The in­voices were not ques­tioned be­cause build­ing works had then been un­der way at the char­ity.

Ciri­anni fooled the char­ity into pay­ing $178,000 for goods in­clud­ing air­con­di­tion­ers, hot­wa­ter ser­vices, doors, shower screens, a pool, in­su­la­tion, new roof­ing and fenc­ing.

He used his cor­po­rate credit card to buy meals, hard­ware items and gro­ceries.

The au­dit found 117 sep­a­rate pur­chases that had breached com­pany pol­icy.

Ciri­anni stole a to­tal of just over $210,000.

Af­ter be­ing caught out he made full ad­mis­sions, and dis­closed fur­ther of­fences the au­dit did not de­tect. “I love the or­gan­i­sa­tion. “I have made a ter­ri­ble mis­take,” he said.

Mr Mur­phy ar­gued that Ciri­anni should be sen­tenced to a Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tions Or­der rather than jail — a penalty pros­e­cu­tors said was not in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

But Judge Co­hen said pri­son was a real pos­si­bil­ity.

“At the end of the day, I make the de­ci­sion on sen­tence,” she said.

Ciri­anni will be sen­tenced this month.

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