Former head of Facilities Management at Victoria University, Rebekah Procter, has been sentenced to two years and five months jail time after pleading guilty to defrauding the university of $481,000 over a period of 30 months.
Her actions came to light in January when it was discovered that she had created a fake company, complete with a fake email address, and awarded it university contracts.
The $481,000 was accrued through 106 applications made in the name of the fake company, of which about 90 were approved, with the payments going into her personal bank account.
Procter’s lawyer, Phil Mitchell, said in the Wellington District Court upon sentencing that “a perfect storm” of circumstances influenced the offending. Procter was stressed at work, found herself unexpectedly pregnant, and had undiagnosed depression—all of which contributed to her “making poor decisions.”
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Procter’s applications took the form of rudimentary invoices with no GST numbers that should have raised “alarm bells” earlier.
Mitchell went on to say that “the $481,000 was spent on home renovations, mundane household items, and a second-hand Mazda. There was no evidence of flamboyant or spectacular spending.”
Procter’s lawyer had proposed a sentence of home detention as he viewed it was more appropriate than jail. This was rejected by the court. Despite granting discounts for previous good character, remorse, reparations, and a guilty plea, the crime was still too high for Judge Mill to consider home detention.
Following the sentencing, Victoria’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Loveard said it was reassuring that the matter had concluded and that Procter was held accountable. He went on to talk about the effects that Procter’s actions had on the staff of Victoria University, “it is extremely disappointing that somebody with a significant financial responsibility betrayed that trust.”
Loveard said Victoria “continually reviews its processes” and had made improvements since the fraud was uncovered and investigated. “This was an isolated issue and we continue to trust our people.”
Victoria University has been reimbursed the stolen money by its insurance company, with the insurance company aiming to get the money back from Procter and her family. This has most recently resulted in her family home in Porirua and car being sold, and some bank account savings being recovered.