Woman jailed for ‘breathtaking’ fraud

A YOUNG woman who stole more than $300,000 from her employers to fund her lavish lifestyle and gambling addiction has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Christina Tupu wept in Brisbane District Court on Thursday as she learned she would have to continue to raise her seven-month-old daughter behind bars.

In sentencing the 26-year-old for several fraud offences, Judge Gregory Koppenol described her criminality as brazen, despicable and shocking.

"The breach of trust is breathtaking," he said.

Christina Tupu will spend the next five-and-a-half years in jail.
Christina Tupu will spend the next five-and-a-half years in jail.

The court heard Tupu siphoned more than $340,000 from companies Electrolux and Toll Holdings between December 2015 and April 2017.

More than $22,000 was paid back in February 2017, but the rest was used to fund an extravagant lifestyle that included international flights for 31 family members, hotels and cruises.

It was also funnelled into pokie machines as a result of Tupu's gambling addiction.

The young mum took more than $130,000 from Electrolux during her brief employment as a sales assistant from September 2015 to June 2016.

She did so by telling one of the business' customers its banking details had changed and providing her husband's.

She also took a vacuum cleaner and claimed other appliances sent to her in-laws had been paid for when they hadn't.

Just three weeks after she was sacked for not showing up to work too many times, she was hired by Toll Holdings.

Although it took six months for her offending at her new employer to start, prosecutor Sarah Lio-Willie said the level of "sophistication" increased.

Tupu fraudulently changed the bank details on invoices to be paid by Toll to another company, to those of her husband's.

Christina Tupu funnelled money into her husband’s account.
Christina Tupu funnelled money into her husband’s account.

She then went on to duplicate and completely falsify invoices, using two of her colleagues' login details in the process.

More than $200,000 was fraudulently taken from Toll Holdings. Judge Koppenol thanked Tupu's extended Polynesian family for packing out the courtroom in support of her, with some having travelled from overseas.

Her husband, Hakeai Piutau, who the court heard had no involvement in the fraudulent activity, said outside "what's done is done".

"There's nothing we can change about it, the decision's been made," he said. Tupu was sentenced to five-and-a-half years' jail, suspended after she served 20 months.

Judge Koppenol took into account the time she had already spent behind bars and said she would be eligible for release in March 2019.

Topics:  employee fraud and theft jail

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