Shona Lee Divljak leaves Hervey Bay courthouse.
Shona Lee Divljak leaves Hervey Bay courthouse.

COURT: Treasurer lied to club about stolen money to buy time

A HERVEY BAY mother-of-four lied to a local sporting club about stealing $17,000 by claiming it was locked in a safe she could not access, a court heard.

Shona Lee Divljak, 46, appeared in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to one count of stealing as a clerk or servant.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Michael Ruddiman outlined how the former treasurer of the Hervey Bay Seagulls Rugby League Club, on separate occasions between May and July, took large sums of cash from canteen takings and player registrations and failed to bank it.

Divljak did not attend the May committee meeting, the June meeting was cancelled and although she sent her apologies for July did not provide a treasurer's report when requested in her absence.

Sgt Ruddiman said the Seagulls secretary noticed the money she had handed Divljak in May, June and July had not been banked.

The court heard throughout the season, Divljak communicated with the club secretary extensively via text about the amount of money she was handed each time, which revealed a timeline of the offending.

On August 20, another committee meeting was held where Divljak provided a treasurer's report highlighting the processes which should be in place to keep track of cash were not being adhered to.

She went on to state she kept the money at home in a safe and could not open the safe, which was why it was not in the club's bank account.

Divljak told the same story to police when first questioned after the club reported the theft following the meeting.

When questioned again on August 24, Divljak said she was aware there were flaws in the process of handling the club's cash takings and the club would have difficulty accounting for the cash handed to her as there was no receipts kept.

She admitted to police she had never owned a safe and the lie was to try and buy more time before the club reported the theft to police while she sorted a loan from her mother-in-law to pay back the money.

On August 27, Divljak paid $15,000 back into the club's bank account.

Almost $2000 recovered in a search of her home by police meant only a small amount of the stolen money was yet to be paid back.

A victim impact statement from Neil Collins on behalf of the Seagulls RLC was tendered.

Sgt Ruddiman said organisations like the Seagulls could only flourish with the support of the community and Divljak's offending had left "confidence at an all-time low with the club".

Solicitor John McDuff said his client was under financial pressure at the time of offending and only used it to support her family and pay for things like food, bills, school fees and debts.

He described the offending as "unsophisticated" as Divljak did not try and hide the money she received each time as she texted the club secretary with the amounts.

Mr McDuff said Divljak lost her job at Fraser Coast Anglican College and had relocated with her family to Townsville.

He said despite applying for jobs, Divljak was currently unemployed and her family was in financial hardship.

Magistrate Stephen Guttridge remanded Divljak in custody while he adjourned the case to this morning to consider sentencing.

Jessica Lamb

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