Schnitzel fraud: former North Wollongong Hotel chef ordered to pay $70,000

Unsolved: North Gong's missing schnitzels

North Wollongong Hotel’s former head chef has been ordered to pay $70,000 in damages to the popular pub over thousands of missing chicken schnitzels.

In a bizarre case of ‘‘schnitzel fraud’’, the hotel’s one-time cook has been found to have been swindling the pub, on-selling schnitzels to them for a higher cost and pocketing the profit.

The findings were made in Sydney’s Federal Circuit Court last week after former chef, Kobina Amponsem, sued his employer, Laundy Pty Ltd, over $11,000 in unpaid annual leave.

The hotel said it had withheld the money in an effort to recoup its losses for the fraud, which it claimed included more than $20,000 worth of schnitzel that was invoiced but never delivered.

In a judgment handed down on September 25, Judge Nicholas Manousaridis found Mr Amponsem had for years been bulk-buying chicken schnitzels for around $1.80 each and then on-selling them to the pub for between $2.80 and $2.90.

The judge found the cook had never told his employer how cheaply he was buying the schnitzels, or that the company doing the onselling was owned by his wife.

Judge Manousaridis said Mr Amponsem’s actions had breached his employment contract.

‘‘Having been requested to acquire the schnitzels for Laundry from another supplier ... Mr Amponsem’s’s duty to render faithful service to Laundy required him to acquire the schnitzels on behalf of Laundry and at the best price he could have negotiated,’’ he said.

‘‘[He] placed himself in a position where his duty to his employer conflicted with his own interest ...’’.

The hotel had claimed the cook had ‘‘disguised his involvement’’ in the purchase of the schnitzels and obtained a $1 profit on each schnitzel.

It also alleged he had invoiced the hotel for $20,622 worth of schnitzel and $5,910 worth of quiche that were never delivered.

Mr Amponsem denied the claims.

Mr Amponsem was hired as the hotel’s head chef in 2008 but was dismissed in March 2011, amid allegations he had cheated the hotel out of the chicken schnitzels and quiches.

In February 2011, a duty manager told hotel management that Mr Amponsem had handed him an invoice for 10 quiches, but only five had arrived.

A few days later, another duty manager found the hotel’s sales records for quiches did not match what had been invoiced and there was a large discrepancy.

An investigation into schnitzel sales also found varied discrepancies, the court heard.

A local court hearing in November 2012 cleared Mr Amponsem of fraud charges but last week, Judge Manousaridis ordered him to pay $72,838.60 in damages.