$761,000 fraudster sentenced
to 18 months’ home detention
FORMER Cowra woman and disgraced and sacked medical centre practice manager, Christine McColl, has avoided gaol for one of the biggest frauds in Wagga Wagga’s history and will instead serve 18 months’ home detention.
The sentence, flagged by Wagga Wagga Local Court Magistrate Michael Antrum on October 28, was confirmed yesterday (Monday) after 60-year-old McColl was assessed as suitable for home detention by Probation and Parole, regional media report.
McColl in August pleaded guilty to eight counts of stealing property as a servant.
In doing so, she admitted defrauding the Peter Street Medical Centre of $761,000 over seven and a half years up until December, 2010, when she was sacked after the fraud was exposed while she was away on an accreditation course.
Solely responsible for the practice’s banking duties, McColl manipulated accounts to steal almost on a daily basis, generally between $500 and $1000 on each occasion.
The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which called for a full-time gaol sentence for McColl, yesterday declined to comment on whether it will appeal against the sentence on the grounds it is too lenient, but has 28 days to lodge an appeal with the District Court.
Mr Antrum did not add to his sentencing remarks in October when he said he could see no benefit to the community in locking up McColl.
“Mrs McColl has not only lost her good reputation as a manager, she has trashed it,” Mr Antrum said at the time.
Mr Antrum yesterday read out the conditions of McColl’s home detention before ordering her to go to Wagga Wagga Police Station for fingerprinting and then straight home.
“You must now proceed directly home and Corrective Services will be notified,” Mr Antrum said.
“You should not take any detour between here and home.”
Home detention is the last option before full-time custody for people sentenced to a maximum of 18 months’ prison.
Over the next 18 months, McColl will:
Perform a maximum 1440 hours of community service (20 hours a week) when otherwise not in paid work;
Wear an ankle bracelet and be subject to around-the-clock monitoring by Corrective Services;
Be subject to strict supervision and random home visits by Corrective Services officers at any time of the night or day;
Not be allowed to consume alcohol;
Must get permission to go to the doctor or dentist; and,
Be allowed to hold down a job but will not be allowed to leave her Lake Albert house for any reason not approved of by Corrective Services.
The court in October heard that McColl, who before now had no criminal record, had already voluntarily performed 2300 hours of community service with the Salvation Army since her arrest, a sign of remorse that Mr Antrum described as “almost astonishing” rehabilitation.
She also entered into a deed of release with the medical centre to pay back some of the money she stole.
The agreement, according to McColl’s barrister in October, included McColl surrendering her employee benefits built up over 25 years and taking out a $120,000 line of credit with a financial institution.
The DPP says the restitution is far less than the amount stolen.
McColl was originally charged with 783 counts alleging she stole $952,000, but negotiations between her solicitor, Phillip Day, and the DPP resulted in streamlined charges, a lesser figure and guilty pleas.
A serious breach of conditions of home detention could result in McColl serving the rest of her sentence in prison.
McColl was the Peter Street’s practice manager for 15 years before being sacked when her theft was exposed three years ago.