‘Despicable': Court hears how Brisbane woman stole over $340,000 from employers

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A gavel is seen in a hearing room in Panama City April 7, 2016. court judge hammer
A gavel is seen in a hearing room in Panama City April 7, 2016. Reuters/Carlos Jasso

A 26-year-old woman who stole over $300,000 from her employers wept in Brisbane District Court on Thursday as she learned she would have to face jail time. She reportedly stole the money to fund her gambling addiction and lavish lifestyle.

Christina Tupu will now have to raise her seven-month-old daughter behind bars. She was sentenced with multiple fraud charges.

Tupu, who was believed to be from Brisbane, syphoned over $340,000 from companies Toll Holdings and Electrolux between December 2015 and April 2017. In February 2017, over $22,000 was paid back.

The rest of the money was used for a lavish lifestyle. Up to 31 family members have enjoyed international flights including hotels and cruises. The court has also heard about Tupu’s gambling addiction.

'Brazen, despicable and shocking'

Tupu worked for Electrolux as a sales assistant from September 2015 to June 2016, when she was able to take more than $130,000 from the company. Tupu did so by advising one of the business’ customers that its banking details had changed then providing her husband’s, News.com.au reports. She also claimed that appliances sent to her in-laws had been paid for, but it was not the case.

Then she did not go to work too many times. She was sacked.

After three weeks, she found a new job at Toll Holdings. It took six months for her offences in the new company to start, but the prosecutor said the level of “sophistication” increased.

Tupu managed to change the bank details on invoices to be paid by her new employer to another company to those of her husband’s. She duplicated and falsified invoices using her colleagues’ login details. Over $200,000 was taken from Toll.

“Brazen, despicable and shocking” were the words judge Gregory Koppenol used to describe the criminality. He added that the breach of trust is breathtaking.

Koppenol thanked Tupu’s extended Polynesian family for packing out the courtroom to show support for her. Some travelled from overseas.

'What’s done is done'

Her husband Hakeai Piutau has commented about the court’s decision, saying there is nothing that could be changed about it. Outside the court, he said that “what’s done is done.”

The court heard that Piutau had no involvement in his wife’s fraudulent activities. Tupu was sentenced to five-and-a-half years jail, suspended after she served 20 months.

Judge Koppenol took into account the period she had already spent behind bars. Tupu would be eligible for release in March 2019.