Aussie Travel Agent Faces Jail After $630,000 Theft

An Australian travel agent faces a significant jail sentence after pleading guilty to stealing more than $670,000 from her employer.

A 58-year-old Australian travel agent faces jail after admitting to stealing almost $630,000 from her employer. Annette Roberts stole $628,598 between April 2018 and September 2020 and lost it all gambling.

Roberts devised a scheme where she diverted client refunds to her own bank account. She did this via 522 transactions. The travel agent stole an additional $40,636 by loading money onto prepaid travel debit cards and putting them in the names of clients. The mother of two used the stolen money to feed her gambling addiction. Roberts fed pokie machines during her lunch break and gambling excessively at online casinos during lockdown.

Kay and Bruce Reid, owners of Travel and Cruise North East in Wangaratta, sold two properties to cover the cost of the thefts. The financial hit resulted in the Reids delaying their upcoming retirement.

Travel Agent Apologies For Six-Figure Theft

The County Court of Victoria heard how Roberts started her role as a travel agent in 2017. Her gambling was already out of control with her using short-term loans to cover her gambling costs.

It took only two months before Roberts began stealing from her employer. She continued stealing for almost three years.

Roberts repaid $22,500 and contacted her victims asking to pay them back on a $250 a week repayment plan. In addition, Roberts returned a $30,000 lump sum to some of the affected client before police were aware of her actions.

“I would like to sincerely apologise for my theft and the hurt and pain I have caused you both. I’m so devastated and sorry for all the betrayal of trust and financial hardship, anxiety and embarrassment that I have caused from my stupid, unlawful actions.”

Judge Michael McInerney dismissed the apology before calling online gambling an “abomination.”

“I’m certain that apology would be a lot better if she had $600,000 to go with it, but unfortunately she hasn’t. We’ve got a community where our government decided to introduce this scourge on our community and live off it to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.”

“To have people able to use them online is really an abomination if ever I’ve heard one. That’s what’s so obnoxious about this sort of crime – that this loss to people occurred to no one else’s benefit but the proprietors of poker machines. Everyone else is decimated so they can make a profit. It’s really outrageous.”

The no former travel agent faces a significant spell behind bars. Sentencing is scheduled for later this month.

Royal Commission Into Crown Perth Raises Pokies Questions

It was not only the former travel agent who faced a grilling because the royal commission into Crown Perth has raised serious questions about pokies in Western Australia.

The Western Australian government banned pokies when Crown Perth opened in 1985, citing concerns about problem gambling. Crown Perth has thousands of Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM), which it states are not pokies.

Crown Perth housed 200 EGMs when it opened to the public in 1985. That figure stands at 2,500 today. Furthermore, Crown’s latest financial report shows Crown Perth’s EGMs made $306 million in the past year, up almost 50 percent from previous reporting period.

The Gaming and Wagering Commission approves every machine at Crown Perth, which is the only Western Australia venue permitted to use such machines. Guidelines are in place for determining if a EGM is indeed that.

  • No spinning wheel display
  • Needs some player interaction
  • Games take a minimum of three seconds to play
  • Use symbols that do not appear on pokies in other states
  • Have a Return To Player (RTP) of at least 90%
  • Must press a button to start

Gambling researcher at Monash University, Charles Livingstone, does not see much difference between pokies and EGMs.

“All they’re doing is taking a random number generator and mapping it onto a different display, so essentially, they’re very similar.”

Interesting times, if slightly worrying times for Crown Perth, are ahead.