Geraldton woman gets last chance to repay $27,000 stolen from her father

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton Courthouse.
Camera IconGeraldton Courthouse. Credit: Gavin Box/The Geraldton Guardian

A Cape Burney woman who stole more than $27,000 from her father has been given one last chance to pay back the money before she is sentenced.

Sharleen Tracey Eliza McConnell, 50, appeared from custody in Geraldton Magistrates Court on Monday after she pleaded guilty to more than 200 counts of gaining benefit by fraud and one count of stealing.

She had initially been granted bail to give her time to save up for restitution but possible income from her partner’s job prospects had fallen through after he became ill and was unable to work.

McConnell — who cannot drive — planned to sell her car and put the proceeds towards her debt but defence counsel Kelly Beard said the woman’s friends had used the car to transport McConnell to and from the hospital to visit her partner.

She was remanded in custody last week when she breached her bail by failing a drug test.

Ms Beard said McConnell’s partner was now out of hospital and hard started working on Monday, with his wages to help pay back the $27,000 debt to McConnell’s father.

She described McConnell’s financial circumstances as “very limited”, with the woman predominantly relying on a carer’s pension for income.

The lawyer said McConnell “has struggled with why she has committed these offences against” her father, as he has always been the person “closest” to her.

Magistrate Angus Hockton said he was “really suspicious” of McConnell’s ability to pay back the money.

“She might have good intentions but I am very sceptical about how much could be repaid given she is on such a tight budget,” he said.

“It is also disappointing she thought it was all right she could consume cannabis while on bail, which would have been done at an expense.”

But Mr Hockton said his “greatest wish” was to see the damage McConnell had inflicted on her father “minimised”, and opted to give her a chance to save money on a pre-sentence order.

“I want to see how you go in the community,” he said.

“If you are genuine about your wish to repay this debt, you can get your car fixed up and sold. You cannot drive that vehicle, you have been sitting on that asset while your father has lost his assets.

“I expect you to gain employment, too.”

The order will be reviewed on April 4, with Mr Hockton saying he would proceed to sentencing if McConnell had made no progress in saving money.

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