A divorcee who siphoned $1.1million from her employer to inject into a series of offshore bank accounts after falling victim to two online dating scams has avoided jail.
Kaye Leanne Ferguson, 59, defrauded the Mulwala Water Ski Club, in NSW’s Riverina region, of the six-figure sum between December 2020 and January 2021.
The former financial officer faced a sentencing hearing in Albury District Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to three charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception in February.
The court heard Ferguson, who worked for the business for 10 years, started using online dating website ‘Singles 50s’ after separating from her husband in January 2020, the Herald Sun reports.
After being conned by two men, Ferguson emptied around $355,000 from her personal accounts before taking money from the club 27 times.
Kaye Leanne Ferguson, 59, (pictured) has been sentenced to a three-year intensive corrections order after defrauding her boss
She encountered her first scam six months into using the site when a man blackmailed her into transferring him $130,000 under the threat of sending explicit images of her to her children.
Ms Ferguson later met a second man, William David Rodavan, who told her he was a Melbourne-based engineer who travelled overseas frequently for work.
In November, the pair were speaking on the phone when Ferguson heard a loud noise and Mr Rodavan abruptly hung up.
Days later, he called her up claiming he was involved in an explosion that killed several of his employees and needed money to pay their families.
Ferguson subsequently transferred him $225,000 of her own funds, draining her accounts.
As Mr Rodavan continued to ask for money, she began transferring him funds from the club at his direction – which totalled $1,064,000.
She also took $40,000 to pay builders for renovations that had already begun on her home, which was later sold to pay back the club.
Ferguson took more than a $1million from the Mulwala Water Ski Club (pictured) over the course of two months
Ferguson paid the club back $10,000 from her savings during that period.
The court heard the fraud was uncovered when Ferguson admitted what she had done to Mulwala Water Ski Club CEO Peter Duncan when he visited her home in January 2021.
She collapsed to the floor in hysterics and told him, ‘I am a bad person and I want somebody to shoot me’, prompting Mr Duncan to ask her to tell him what was wrong.
The court heard Ferguson was scammed by two men months apart that she met on dating website Singles 50
After admitting taking the money, Mr Duncan asked her how much, expecting it to be around $200,000, before Ferguson told him it was more than $1million.
Judge Sean Grant sympathised with Ferguson’s situation, saying she too was a victim.
‘[She was] sad, lonely, depressed and vulnerable [at the time],’ Judge Grant said
‘Catfishes and dating scammers are sophisticated.
‘The desire for a relationship … is a part of the human experience.’
Ferguson, who now owns nothing besides her car and a few personal belongings, has so far repaid the club $300,000.
She was sentenced to a three-year intensive corrections order to be served in the community.
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