Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
GAMBLING: Pokies. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet BUN290413BET3

CEO of not-for-profit stole thousands to feed addiction

THE former CEO of a Casino non-profit and her assistant may face fraud charges after the Independent Commission Against Corruption found they engaged in "seriously corrupt conduct".

Linda Stewart, the former CEO of Casino-Boolangle Local Aboriginal Land Council, and Veronica Skinner, the former administrative assistant, cashed tens of thousands of dollars of fraudulently issued cheques to fund an out-of-control pokie habit at the Casino RSM Club.

An ICAC hearing into the matter has concluded both women were engaged in serious corruption and has referred the matter to the Department of Public Prosecution for possible criminal charges.

From a period in late 2010 to August 2012, Ms Stewart deceived CBLALC board members into signing cheques for which she then cashed for herself and Veronica Skinner.

Ms Skinner engaged in the same conduct between late 2010 and October 2011.

Both women gave evidence at the ICAC public inquiry held in May last year that they had falsified invoices in their bid to access the cash.

Ms Skinner told the commission it was while she and Ms Stewart were using the pokie machines at the RSM Club that they first had a discussion about cashing CBLALC cheques and keeping the proceeds.

The inquiry heard that Ms Stewart lost an estimated $145,000 at the pokies in a little more than two years to the end of 2012, despite earning just $873 per week after tax.

Her recorded losses spiralled out of control, from $8560 in 2010 to $74,430 in 2012.

The club's records for Ms Skinner also indicate losses of $6,274 in 2010 and $27,176 in 2011.

The CBLALC was in a "precarious" financial situation during this time, owing about $145,000 including outstanding super contributions and debts with the Australian Tax Office.

It had sustained four consecutive years of losses above $60,000 between 2007-08 and 2010-11.

Exactly how much money the two women stole from the Land Council remains unknown, but between July 2011 and June 2012 alone, cheques worth more than $77,000 were drawn and cashed without documentation.

"They both accepted their acts in doing so where dishonest, involved deception, resulted in diverting money from its rightful owner and constituted a breach of trust placed in them by the CBLALC board members and the local Aboriginal community in general," the ICAC report said.

Also, the fraud was made possible partly because of board members' "limited financial management skills and lack of management experience of board members (which) led to them becoming overly reliant on Ms Stewart".

The women's actions "could involve a number of serious offences" for which the maximum penalty is 10 years in jail. They were "motivated entirely by self interest", the report concluded.

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