Woman who stole millions from Housing Trust in Wollongong jailed

File picture.

File picture.

Lalaine Agtarap was considered a regular high roller at Sydney’s Star casino a few years back.

The 51-year-old Figtree mother wouldn’t think twice about parting with the maximum $100 bet on a single round, as her nightly spend often climbed into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The only problem was it wasn’t her money she was fluttering away.

That cash, totalling almost $3.8 million, belonged to The Housing Trust in Wollongong, Agtarap’s former employer and the victim of 245 individual acts of fraud at the hands of the woman it trusted with its multimillion dollar financial stream.

As a data entry clerk, Agtarap’s job at the trust was to handle day-to-day  transactions including managing the payroll, transferring funds into different bank accounts and preparing financial reports.

In reality, Agtarap siphoned money from the trust between November 2006 and April 2013 by changing the data on the trust’s online banking system so payments intended for internal transfer, or transfer to a third party, flowed to her bank account.

The thefts succeeded even though two managers had to enter approval codes  for the transactions to go ahead.

Agtarap then simply withdrew the money and poured it through poker machines across the Illawarra and Sydney, gambling more than $21 million between 2006 and 2013.

Agtarap’s outcomes included a $60,000 loss during a single visit to Star City, and two wins of more than $100,000 at Wests Illawarra.

On Monday, District Court judge Paul Conlon sentenced Agtarap to five years’ jail, with a non-parole period of two years, describing her behaviour as a ‘‘deplorable breach of trust’’.

‘‘She regarded the trust as her own personal money tree,’’  he said.

‘‘It is a most serious offence.’’

However, Judge Conlon also took aim at the housing trust, which the court heard had not picked up on the thefts for nearly seven years, despite conducted quarterly audits on its accounts and the requirement for Agtarap’s managers to approve her transactions.

‘‘It’s obvious her frauds were made so much easier by the negligence of her supervisors,’’ Judge Conlon said.

‘‘It’s just extraordinary that these persons who had the responsibility of checking these transactions just neglected to do so.

‘‘It speaks of incredible slackness [by] that organisation.’’

Agtarap’s thefts came to light in April 2013 after executives found anomalies in the bank accounts.

She resigned soon after, ending almost 20 years of employment.

Agtarap repaid $45,000 with an initial bank cheque, and agreed to forfeit $32,000 in statutory entitlements as partial repayments.

She has since been declared bankrupt, telling the court on Monday she had ‘‘lost everything’’, including her house.

Agtarap will be eligible for parole in April 2017.

Outside court, Agtarap’s lawyer, Aaron Kernaghan, said his client accepted her punishment.

“Mrs Agtarap is relieved that the court process is now finalised and that she can look forward to moving on with her life upon her release from custody,’’ he said.

‘‘Consistent with her approach to this matter, Mrs Agtarap has instructed that she does not wish to appeal today’s decision and accepts as final the judgment of the court.’’

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