Treasurer gambles money on pokies

FORMER Gympie Gold Rush committee treasurer Karen McRae admitted in Gympie Magistrates Court she took nearly $4000 from festival funds and gambled the majority of it away on the pokies.

A respected bookkeeper for many local businesses, McRae gave in to temptation when she was handed a sum of cash collected from the Gold Rush Ball in October of last year.

The money was raised for the festival through cash-sales of ball tickets, raffles and bar takings, and in her trusted position as treasurer, McRae, 51, was given the responsibility to deposit the money into the bank but ended up keeping it for herself.

On discovering the missing money, the Gold Rush Committee gave McRae plenty of chances to pay it back but by the end of January a formal complaint was made to police.

“I could have solved the situation a number of times but I didn’t ... I wish I could give the court and (the community) a reason why but I can’t,” McRae told Gympie Magistrate Maxine Baldwin.

The court heard McRae, 51, had told her bookkeeping clients about the situation and one of them had loaned her $3500 to help her to pay back the money she owed.

“I made a mistake. I don’t know why I did it ... I’m sorry I let so many people down,” she said.

Representing McRae, solicitor Corey Jenkins told the court his client’s father was dying at the time of the offence and that had affected her mental state.

“I am advised by my client that she doesn’t have a gambling problem unless something triggers it off,” he said. “(McRae) told everyone she works for about it and they continue to have her on their books ... she is severely remorseful.”

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Lisa Manns said McRae told investigating officers she thought she would recover the money in time.

“It’s quite a serious amount of money that has been gambled away,” she said and added that it was the first time McRae had been responsible for cash in her role as treasurer for the Gympie Gold Rush Festival.

Mrs Baldwin added her concern about McRae’s comments that she didn’t know why she took the money.

“People in these committees work really hard to raise money for these events and to have it spent on pokies is unacceptable,” she said.

“Six months probation will give you the opportunity to ascertain why you did it.”

Mr Jenkins asked that no conviction be recorded on his clients history. Mrs Baldwin considered the reasons for and against, commenting that McRae had no criminal history.

“It seems to be a one-off aberration,” she told the court but added that while it was a one-off, the charge was something that shouldn’t be hidden from future employers.

Mrs Baldwin ordered McRae, of Old Maryborough Road, Gympie, to pay back the outstanding sum of $314.50 and ordered that no conviction be recorded.

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