AN EAGLEHAWK man who stole close to $40,000 from a Bendigo volunteer organisation is appealing his four-month jail term.
Nathan James Wingrave, 32, was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court on Friday after pleading guilty to a single count of theft.
Wingrave was remanded in custody for about three hours before he was released on appeal bail.
The court heard Wingrave was the treasurer of the Bendigo Gem Club between May 2017 and December 2017.
During that timeframe, the 32-year-old used his position to steal $39,602.95 from the organisation.
Wingrave used the club's cheque book to make out 14 cheques payable to cash, before cashing the cheques and keeping about $11,639 for himself.
The court heard Wingrave would approach other club committee members with blank cheques for them to co-sign. He pretended he could not recall the amount to be paid nor the person to be paid.
Wingrave also stole $19,996 from the Bendigo Gem Club's 2017 expo. The annual two-day event is one of the primary ways that the club raises money.
Wingrave kept the money for himself rather than depositing the cash into the club's bank account.
Throughout his time as treasurer, Wingrave also collected a further $7967.95 in cash through membership sales, workshop fees, and silver sales.
Wingrave was arrested on June 18 last year. He made full admissions to the theft, saying he had been in a "pretty bad place" at the time.
Wingrave said he used the money to pay for things like shopping, food, and clothing. He said he did not bank any of the money and instead spent it.
The court heard Wingrave had already paid back $4750 to the Bendigo Gem Club at the time of the plea hearing.
Helen Rothacker, the current president of the club, read out a victim impact statement to the court saying the theft had a profound effect on the organisation.
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Ms Rothacker said the club's members felt deceived and cheated by Wingrave's actions, with people turning on each other as they tried to determine how much money had been stolen.
"I felt overwhelmed having to clean up another person's mess," she told the court.
Ms Rothacker said as a result of the theft, the gem club had been unable to complete important works including plans to remove asbestos.
Andie Downing, the club's former marketing manager, also read out a victim impact statement.
Ms Downing said she felt naive, stupid, and personally betrayed by Wingrave.
She told the court she was responsible for organising the 2017 expo so she was distressed to find out the money could not be accounted for.
Ms Downing said she was still experiencing "overwhelming" anxiety as a result of Wingrave's crimes.
Defence lawyer Daniel Griffiths told the court Wingrave had no prior convictions and was currently working full time.
Mr Griffiths said his client had entered a guilty plea at an early stage which showed his remorse, as did his "frank and honest" confessions in his police interview.
The defence lawyer submitted that a good behaviour bond was an appropriate sentence.
But prosecutor Sergeant David Somerton said the "calculated" offending was a "monumental abuse of trust" against a volunteer organisation.
The prosecutor said Wingrave had ample time to pay back all of the money he had stolen.
Sergeant Somerton submitted that the court needed to show the offending was not to be tolerated.
Wingrave told the court he was deeply remorseful for the offending and it was his strong intention to pay back all of the money.
The 32-year-old said he had been recently diagnosed with ADHD, which explained why he had difficulty in managing his finances.
Magistrate Jonathan Klestadt said he accepted the plea was entered at a relatively early stage and that Wingrave had no prior convictions.
But Mr Klestadt said the offending was a more serious example of theft, given the significant impact it had on the club and its members.
The magistrate noted the defence lawyer had "said little" about Wingrave's personal history or his mental state.
"There is no material before me to suggest that he was in dire financial circumstances," Mr Klestadt said. "It only seems that he wanted more money for his own expenditure."
Mr Klestadt said the offending was a "dramatic abuse of trust" that needed to be condemned.
Wingrave was convicted and sentenced to four months in jail. He was also ordered to pay the remaining $34,852 in compensation to the Bendigo Gem Club.
If he did not plead guilty, Wingrave would have been jailed for 12 months.
Wingrave was initially remanded in custody. He was released late on Friday afternoon after being bailed to appeal his prison sentence.
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