Fraudster befriended business owner and concealed crimes
A MANIPULATIVE fraudster stole over $58,000 from Gladstone business owners while working as practice manager for their dental clinic and befriending one of the business partners.
Sommer Julie Price, 33, was sentenced in the Rockhampton District Court today for four fraud charges she pleaded guilty to in Gladstone District Court on April 15, 2019.
Crown prosecutor Alexandra Baker said Price had been employed with One Dental Group - owned and operated by David and Anita Fortier - as a dental assistant/receptionist in February 2014, handled payments from clients and had access to financial software.
She said Price was promoted to practice manager in April 2015 and her access to the business's finances grew - she then had access to all of the business's banking.
Ms Baker said Price also developed a personal relationship with Mrs Fortier, even going on a trip to America together.
She said during the 18-month fraud period where she obtained $58,010, the business also had a high staff turnaround.
The court was told Price, an Emmaus College graduate, would do the daily banking.
"She failed to bank a significant amount ($50,939)," Ms Baker said.
Price doctored papers and altered reports to conceal her offending.
Only $11,000 of unconfirmed deposits were made into her personal account during the offending period, with Price using the rest on designer clothes and accessories, flights, accommodation, and shouting rounds of drinks.
Price also used the business's credit cards and HICAPS system to pay bills and make purchases.
The court heard Price had been seen to snort cocaine during the offending period.
Ms Baker said Price paid for a table of 10 at a Melbourne Cup function at the Gladstone Entertainment Centre using the business accounts and then told Mrs Fortier she had used her own funds, which resulted in Mrs Fortier transferring $1100 from her personal account to Price's.
She said Ms Fortier became suspicious of Price and sent her to make eight cash deposits, of which not all made the business's accounts despite Price saying she had deposited the money and didn't have receipts.
Ms Baker said on December 30, 2015, the daily takings were found in Price's office and Price said she hadn't had time to bank them.
The Fortiers hired accountants to do a forensic examination which uncovered Price's offending.
Price's employment with One Dental Group was terminated on January 8, 2016 and a complainant was made to police, who investigated and then searched Price's residence on June 23.
"She tried to distract police during the search," Ms Baker said.
She said she kept trying to send police upstairs. Evidence of her offending was found on the first floor and in the garage.
Judge Michael Burnett said the offending had an element of deviousness and indicated a dishonest streak.
Defence barrister Jordan Ahlstrand said Price came from "a very fine and decent family", finished Year 12 at Emmaus College, completed a hairdressing apprenticeship, worked as a dental assistant in Rockhampton and Yeppoon practices, and worked at 4CC after the fraud offending.
"She was on air performing her promotional duties when police attended 4CC," he said.
Mr Ahlstrand said after her arrest, she relocated to Brisbane and worked for a dental practice until her arrangement and subsequent bail was revoked.
Judge Burnett sentenced Price to three years and nine months, suspended after 12 months and operational three years and nine months. He declared 38 days pre-sentence custody and ordered parole release on April 15, 2020.