Frances Walshe, a 65-year-old Australian woman who worked as a business manager, pleaded guilty to stealing a whopping $297,000 (converted from AUD) from a high school. She later apologized, blaming her gambling addiction for the incident.
At first, people believed that the woman had only stolen some $32,335 from Melbourne High School. After she admitted to the theft, further investigations revealed that the actual sum was much higher.
The $297,000 Walshe stole wasn’t stolen overnight. Instead, the woman, who had been working at the school since 1994, took smaller sums from the school’s bank accounts over time. An administrative oversight allowed Walshe to make payments and transfers without needing authorization, which made her theft significantly easier.
Walshe began stealing money on January 2012. By September 2021, she had made over 254 transfers from the school bank accounts to her personal account. She hid the account statements in her office and had whited out her account details to prevent being found out. And prevent being found out she did, at least for a few years.
Walshe’s Crime Was Crude but Effective
While Walshe’s crime was crude, it was not discovered until a decade later when Tony Mordini, the newly-appointed principal, decided to crack down on the mystery of the school’s suboptimal financial governance.
Walshe tried to cover up her tracks once more by saying that everything is working as intended and that the processes were designed to facilitate his work. She trusted in the school’s governance issues to keep her away from suspicion.
However, Mordini pressed on and eventually confronted Walshe over an alleged theft of $32,335. He succeeded in making Walshe admit her crime but only a further investigation uncovered the true scope of Walshe’s theft.
The Origin of Walshe’s Problem Gambling
Walshe’s barrister, Hayden Rattray, commented on his client’s problem gambling. He explained that the woman felt comfortable in her workplace, which eventually made her confident enough to attempt stealing from the school bank accounts.
According to Rattray, Walshe’s gambling problem was sparked by her second divorce when her ex-husband left her for another woman. For Walshe, the local pokies venue was a way to escape reality and be entertained.
Walshe was completely unaware of the total sum she had stolen over time, Rattray claims. Unfortunately, she is unable to return the money and will likely have to serve prison time. The final verdict will be imposed by County Court Judge Peter Lauritsen.
In a separate case, a church employee stole almost $600,000 from a Catholic church.