200K DOG ACT
Charity boss steals from the blind
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.