Emerald fraudster granted immediate parole
LARNA Elizabeth Kerswell betrayed trust and abused a position of power within the Emerald State High School P&C.
On Wednesday, she was sentenced to a two-year jail term after pleading guilty to stealing almost $20,000 from the organisation.
Kerswell, 44, walked out of the Emerald Magistrates Court with immediate parole after Magistrate Stuart Shearer told her that her acts were a "gross breach of trust".
In her role as treasurer for the committee, Kerswell stole $19,761.90 by taking P&C banking and depositing it in her own accounts and also using the committee's Woolworths account to purchase personal groceries.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Darren Scanlan said Kerswell was selected as treasurer for the P&C in March, 2013, because of her background in administration and book keeping.
After she was brought into the Emerald police station on December 6, 2014, Kerswell admitted she had taken the money and borrowed money off her brother to pay it back immediately.
But Magistrate Stuart Shearer said that "a mere making of restitution itself doesn't buy your way out of prison" and pointed out that Kerswell had only paid back the stolen money after she was caught.
"You were entrusted to handle cash... it wasn't a one-off (crime) by any means," Mr Shearer said.
Sgt Scanlan said Kerswell's crimes were ongoing over months and that it "wasn't a sudden or one-off occasion".
"She was in a position of trust," he said.
"The (tuckshop and uniform shop) convenors trusted her on her word."
Kerswell would attend the tuckshop and uniform shop at the time when they were due to bank money, and offer to save the convenors time by doing it herself.
Kerswell's defence solicitor Rhett Peters said Kerswell had lived in Emerald nearly all her life and had a husband and three children in the town.
"Mrs Kerswell is ashamed and embarrassed," he said.
Mr Peters said Kerswell kept the offending from her husband and family, and had retained her position as a book keeper with a local company despite them knowing about the charges.
Mr Shearer said he had two questions to ask Mr Peters.
"Why did she do it and what did she do with the money?" he asked.
Mr Peters said a lack of work for Kerswell and a pay cut her husband was forced to take led her to stealing the money.
"The money was not spent on luxury," he said.
Mr Peters also noted that Kerswell's fraud was not "sophisticated" - there were no false bank accounts, instead she simply deposited money into her own account.
Kerswell was found guilty of one count of stealing greater than $5000 and one count of fraud - dishonestly gain benefit/advantage.