A function centre manager who admitted pocketing the proceeds of a charity event held at his venue in January will no longer be required to work off his debt to society.
Bella Portofino manager Manuel Paradisis successfully appealed against a 300 hour community service order given to him in July after he confessed to misappropriating $17,647 that had been raised for disabled Mt Warrigal builder George Testa.
Paradisis had been handed raffle proceeds for safe keeping on the night, however later took the money for his own use, then repeatedly misled the Testa family about its whereabouts.
The Testas eventually went to police, resulting in Paradisis being charged.
In court on Friday, Defence lawyer Robert Steward argued Paradisis had experienced a “marked decline” in his mental health due to the media coverage surrounding the court proceedings.
He said Paradisis lodged the appeal on the basis he feared he was too unhealthy to complete the community service order.
Judge Andrew Haesler accepted that Paradisis had had “a significant adverse reaction” to the publicity and that this was his first criminal conviction.
“This was his one serious lapse into criminality,” Judge Haesler said.
“It’s sad to see someone in your position being reduced to a criminal.”
He agreed to convert Paradisis’ community service order to a nine-month suspended jail sentence, saying the offence appeared “totally out of character”.
The Testas have previously spoken about their battle for justice, saying the most important aspect of the court case was that “the truth had finally come out’’.
‘’We didn’t fight for this to get the money back – for the most part it didn’t look like we’d get a dollar of it,’’ Mr Testa told the Mercury in July.
‘’The main reason we pursued this was out of respect for the 450 guests at the fundraiser.
“We have to look at these people in the face and if we would have lain down and did nothing, then we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”