A former Salvation Army worker who admitted fleecing almost $23,000 from the charity organisation over three years has had her jail sentence overturned on appeal.
Alison Jones will instead serve 12 months home detention, complete with an electronic ankle monitoring device. The sentence took effect Friday afternoon, just hours after it was imposed by Judge Andrew Haesler in Wollongong District Court.
Community Corrections staff were expected to arrive at Jones’ West Wollongong home around 4pm to fit the ankle bracelet.
The court heard Jones had been a reliable, trusted colleague for 15 of her 18 years working for the Salvos, beginning as a volunteer then progressing to a paid position in the Wollongong-based welfare assistance centre, authorising hardship payments to struggling families.
However, in January 2012, Jones herself was struggling financially and began abusing her role as centre manager by creating letters from fictitious clients seeking monetary relief.
That letter was then attached to a reimbursement form that was forwarded to the Army’s head office for book keeping purposes, while Jones wrote out a corresponding cheque for the requested amount - usually around the $400 mark.
With no actual recipient for the money, Jones would then take the cheque and use it to pay the rent on her unit.
In total, Jones misappropriated $22,920 over a three-year period.
Court documents say the charity initially became aware of financial anomalies at the centre in March 2013 and organised for an audit in August that year, which picked up irregularities in Jones’ paperwork.
Jones was sacked on the spot in 2014 after a detailed investigation.
The Salvation Army then handed the matter over to police.
Jones confessed to the scam during an interview with officers at Wollongong Police Station in December last year, saying she had fallen into financial difficulty in early 2012 following the death of her husband.
She was subsequently charged with two dishonesty offences, to which she pleaded guilty.
Judge Haesler accepted Jones had been motivated by poverty, not greed, and found the original jail sentence imposed in the Local Court had been too harsh given the circumstances.