A Lake Heights furniture salesman who defrauded his employer of more than $20,000 used the funds to support his insatiable gambling habit, a court has heard.
John Riley, 52, pleaded guilty to two stealing-related charges in Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday, admitting he hatched a lucrative returns scam while working as a sales assistant for Freedom Furniture.
A set of agreed facts tendered to the court said Riley began working part-time at the furniture chain's Carringbah store in December 2018 before being given a permanent position at the Moore Park showroom in 2019.
The court heard between October and December 2019, Riley made 48 fake refunds totalling $23,568 for products including sofa beds, rugs, mattresses and paintings.
He used the store's EFTPOS terminal to refund the money into his own Commonwealth Bank account - the same account into which his weekly wage was paid - then created corresponding entries in the sales system in an attempt to make the returns look legitimate.
He has a lot of problems, he's the first to acknowledge that.
Police said the customers Riley references in the refund transactions had not requested a refund, nor had they returned the products.
It was nor revealed in court how Freedom Furniture came to be aware of the scam, however the matter was subsequently reported to police and Riley was eventually charged.
In court on Tuesday, defence lawyer Jonathan Kearney said Riley had previously owned two successful road maintenance businesses which had given him "significant access" to funds in the past.
"He attended Star City Casino and spent a large amount of money there on the roulette tables," Mr Kearney said, revealing Riley's gambling habits and the amount of money he spent afforded him "special privileges" at the casino.
However, Mr Kearney said Riley had taken steps to address his addiction issues including referring himself to community services for problem gamblers.
"He has a lot of problems, he's the first to acknowledge that," he said.
"[But] for the first time in his life, he has woken up to [the] problem."
The court heard Riley, who has since relocated to Tamworth to be closer to family, had been deemed a low risk of reoffending.
Magistrate Claire Girotto noted Riley's offending had involved some planning but applauded his efforts to rehabilitate himself.
She agreed to spare Riley a full-time jail sentence, instead imposing a 12-month, community-based intensive corrections order and ordering him to repay the money he stole.
As part of the order, Riley will be required to continue with his current treatment.