Moon Street Medical clinic in Ballina.
Moon Street Medical clinic in Ballina.

Woman sentenced for defrauding medical business of $180K

A WOMAN who defrauded her Ballina employer of $180,000 has been sentenced to more than two years imprisonment.

Tracey Louise Hughes, 56, appeared before Lismore District Court on Wednesday for sentencing over one charge of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Between 2012 and 2019, Hughes had fraudulently transferred the funds from her employer, Moon Street Medical Centre.

Throughout that time, she had successfully transferred about $179,000 into her own bank account through 330 transactions.

The average transaction was about $542 into her personal account.


Moon Street Medical clinic in Ballina.
Moon Street Medical clinic in Ballina.


Judge Jeffery McLennan said the facts showed Hughes had abused her employer's trust, while she was employed as practice manager and had primary responsibility for the business accounts.

"While not specially sophisticated, it was clearly planned," Judge McLennan said.

"She abused and betrayed the trust shown to her by her employers.

Judge McLennan said Hughes had started to transfer the money in 2012 when she fell behind in her mortgage payments and rates, but then began to gamble the money more earnestly in 2016 and 2017.

In her statement to the court, Hughes said she felt "embarrassed" and was ashamed of her actions.

"I was unfaithful to my employer, they trusted me, and I took advantage of it," she said.

"They would be hurt and shocked. I regret it every day."

While Judge McLennan said the full amount lost to the business may be "irretrievable", he commended Hughes' efforts to repay the money owed to her former employer.

Through the sale of her North Lismore home, she was able to repay $50,000 to Moon Street Medical Centre, and indicated she intended to withdraw her superannuation, estimated to be about $60,000, in a few years when she was eligible to do so.

She also planned to repay the debt by paying $100 a week from any wage she receives.

Hughes was convicted and sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 18 months.

After the conviction was finalised, Judge McLennan also withdrew a further 329 fraud charges against Hughes, which had been used as back-up charges.