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House-sitter cruises into jail over $90k fraud

Wendy Baulch when she was released from a Brisbane police station with her suitcases in February, 2015. She had just returned from a cruise she paid for with fraudulently obtained money.
Wendy Baulch when she was released from a Brisbane police station with her suitcases in February, 2015. She had just returned from a cruise she paid for with fraudulently obtained money. DAN PELED

WHEN struggling house-sitter Wendy Baulch discovered her bank balance had soared from just a few dollars to more than $90,000, she knew someone had made a mistake.

But rather than alert her bank, the former Maryborough woman quickly siphoned the funds into other accounts and embarked on an exorbitant spending spree, booking an around the world cruise and other luxury holidays.

The monstrous lapse in judgment came back to haunt Baulch on Monday as she was sentenced in Brisbane District Court to 18 months jail for defrauding a discount chemist.

Baulch, 54, first drew the attention of police during an investigation into an online scam that had allegedly targeted the company.

When her cruise ship docked in Sydney she was arrested and escorted back to Queensland in February, 2015.

A charge of computer hacking was later dropped and it was conceded Baulch did not know how the money got into her account.

Defence barrister Bruce Mumford told the court on Monday his client was house sitting for a friend in Maryborough following a doomed move to Canada to be with her former lover when the $93,464 windfall "landed on her doorstep".

He said she used some of the funds to pay bills but accepted much of the money was spent on "indulgences".

He also said that his client, who had since moved to the Gold Coast, recently completed a number of Bible study courses and planned to join the Salvation Army so she could help the "less fortunate".

Judge Gary Long said while Baulch "did nothing to encourage" the transfer of funds, it "must have been obvious" there had been a mistake.

He said jail time was "not going to be easy" for Baulch, who needed the aid of a walking stick to stand up in the dock, but the offence involved a "substantial" loss to the company and general deterrence was important.

Baulch must serve three months behind bars before the remainder of her sentence is suspended.

The $28,000 in remaining funds that was frozen by the bank until the outcome of the case will be returned to the defrauded company.

- ARM NEWDESK

Topics:  fraud luxury cruise



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