Woman steals $17k from volunteers

A WOMAN who stole $17,000 from a volunteer group and covered her trail with falsified documents spent last night behind bars.

Melissa Joy Orpin, 39, of Bundaberg, pleaded guilty in Bundaberg Magistrates Court to 13 charges including fraud, forgery and falsifying documents, relating to her time as treasurer of the Bundaberg Rugby League Referees' Association.

The court was told Orpin made out cheques from the association to herself and her husband over a six-year period, stealing $17,124 in total.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Barry Stevens said police were approached by the club early last year after they found discrepancies with their bank balance and paperwork.

Orpin initially denied any knowledge, but admitted to stealing the cash through cheques and to creating fake audits using an old accountant's documents.

“The victim is a volunteer group and this involves a serious breach of trust,” Sergeant Stevens said.

Defence lawyer Rian Dwyer said Orpin cared for her three adult sons and four grandchildren and was the main breadwinner for the large household.

He said the crimes, between 2002 and 2008, were committed out of desperation rather than greed.

“This money wasn't used for any gambling or luxuries,” Mr Dwyer said.

“My client was unemployed with a bad credit rating and was suffering from depression.”

He said the woman had put $12,000 in his firm's trust account, which would be used to pay back the referees' association.

Magistrate Jennifer Batts noted Orpin's non-existent criminal history.

“This is not really sophisticated offending on your part, but there was a significant level of cover-up,” she said.

Ms Batts convicted and sentenced Orpin to 14 months' jail, with parole release on January 18, 2011, and ordered her to pay back the defrauded money.

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