Mum steals $80k from school, blames bank glitch

A bank employee and citizen of the year who ripped off $80,000 from a school committee claims she believed the funds were her own money.

ANZ bank employee and St Francis Catholic School Parents and Friends Association executive treasurer Katrina Denise Sladden, 50, wired $81,160 into her bank accounts from December 9, 2013 to May 24, 2018.

The Townsville District Court heard Sladden made a total of 191 transactions from the Hughenden school's P&C account to her bank account.

Crown prosecutor Dom Orr said as an ANZ employee, she adjusted the conditions on the committee's bank account.

"The defendant was not authorised to conduct these transactions and was only able to do so without the knowledge of the other members of the executive," she said.

"Because she had adjusted the bank set up by removing the two-to-sign requirement on the account and that was done in her capacity as an employee of the ANZ Bank."

The offending came to light in December 2017 when members of the executive became suspicious.

Katrina Denise Sladden was sentenced to three-and-a-half years jail for fraud in Townsville District Court on Tuesday.
Katrina Denise Sladden was sentenced to three-and-a-half years jail for fraud in Townsville District Court on Tuesday.

The court heard Sladden was approached by members to provide bank statements, but gave various excuses and blamed the discrepancies on a bank system glitch.

Ms Orr provided the court with a victim impact statement written by a member of the St Francis Catholic School P&C committee.

The statement highlighted how the association felt betrayed by Sladden and had trouble trusting other committee members.

Sladden pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $30,000.

The court heard Sladden had paid back $64,192 of the money and had paid the remaining $17,688 overnight before the sentencing.

Defence barrister Kelly Stone said his client did not recall changing the conditions on the accounts.

Katrina Denise Sladden was sentenced to three-and-a-half years jail for fraud in Townsville District Court on Tuesday.
Katrina Denise Sladden was sentenced to three-and-a-half years jail for fraud in Townsville District Court on Tuesday.

"She doesn't recall changing the account from a two person signing. I am instructed she thought she was dealing with her own money in the early stages," he said.

"She wasn't living the high life and your honour can see money was going back into the (committee's) account."

Judge Michael Rackemann refuted the claims made by Mr Stone.

"So far as the submission that she does not recall changing the account to being a one signatory account and that she thought she was dealing with her own money in the early stages," he said.

"They are not submissions I would accept from the bar table, they are submissions that require evidence."

Mr Stone agreed.

He told the court his client was a mother of three and had been awarded the Flinders Shire Council Citizen of the Year in 1999 and also in 2016 during the time she had been offending.

As Sladden sat in the dock, supported by her husband, parents and sister-in-law in court, she wiped away tears.

Judge Rackemann told Sladden her offending was "curious" but "serious".

"You criminal behaviour involved a gross breach of trust," he said.

"No doubt you being a bank employee added to the trust that was placed in you and the feelings of security of others that you would behave in a lawful manner at all times."

Sladden was sentenced to three-and-a-half years' jail to be suspended after serving six months with an operational period of three and a half years.

elisabeth.silvester1@news.com.au

Originally published as Mum steals $80k from school, blames bank glitch



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