Manager given jail for childcare centre fraud

A SOUTHERN Downs man who defrauded a community childcare centre out of more than $20,000 will spend time behind bars.

Clifton man Brett Noel Bender faced Warwick District Court yesterday charged with fraud as an employee.

Between March 2007 and June 2012, Bender, who was the office manager at the Treasure Island Clifton Community Childcare Association Incorporated, used the association's credit card to purchase personal items worth $22,000 in total.

The items ranged from mobile phones to personal care items like shaving cream and many other electrical items.

Crown prosecutor Kathleen Millican told the court 49-year-old Bender held a position with a high level of trust and was in charge of all the financial comings and goings.

"He took many steps to be the only person in the office, he worked unsupervised; this was a small community centre," she said.

"If anyone in the centre wanted something they had to go to him.

"He did this fraud with sophistication - the card was cleared by a monthly account. There were issues surrounding how he attained the card in the first place."

Mrs Millican continued to tell the court Bender was a good book-keeper.

"He had many folders - all of the fraudulent little transactions were sprinkled through the legitimate folders," she said.

"Even though the centre was audited, it only came to police attention after questions were starting to be asked at the centre around June 2012.

"Bender felt pressured to have the books audited, he took the books to an accountant in Toowoomba and then resigned."

Mrs Millican said the small not-for-profit institution had suffered great hardship and hadn't recovered due to the long period of time when Bender was offending.

"His motivation was not need, it was greed," she said.

Defence lawyer Robbie Davies explained to the court the initial Crown case started at $106,000 and ended up at $22,000.

"Mr Bender has a wife and a young family," he said.

"He's got no criminal history and has held solid work for the past 30 years.

"He is an auxiliary firefighter in Allora and he will suffer from the embarrassment and be punished after being written up in the local paper in such a small area."

Mr Davies said Bender offered restitution.

Judge Gregory Koppenol said just this year parliament had removed jail as a last resort for these types of offences.

"It's a very serious offence, charged with fraud as an employee for a sum of $22,000," he said.

"There were at least 160 fraudulent transactions for items used for personal use.

"Your defence lawyer provided no excuse and all I can see is that you were greedy."

Mr Koppenol said the offence affected at least 80 families in the region.

"The centre remains under hardship, you preyed on this childcare centre, it was a significant breach of trust, these types of manager roles depend on honesty," he said.

"This will not be tolerated and the sentence must deter you from doing it again and send a message to the community and I believe a term in prison must be served."

Bender was sentenced to three years jail, eligible for parole in five months on December 22, 2014.

Bender will also pay $22,000 restitution within the next month.

Topics:  childcare fraud jail warwick district court

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