Trusted employee turns to theft

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Zachary James Atkinson, 27, of Bunbury, covered his tracks by fabricating invoices and deleting eftpos transactions.
Camera IconZachary James Atkinson, 27, of Bunbury, covered his tracks by fabricating invoices and deleting eftpos transactions. Credit: Graphic / South Western Times

Zachary James Atkinson was “born and bred” in Bunbury.

The 27-year-old was a trusted employee, working his way up to store manager at Beyond Bricks while also being a well-respected member of a number of local sporting clubs.

But Atkinson will now spend at least the next nine months behind bars after he stole more than $109,000 from the small business he worked at to feed his “large scale” gambling addiction.

Police prosecutors described Atkinson’s offending as “calculated, deceitful” and the “most serious breach of trust” after he stole amounts between $800 and $14,440 across 24 separate occasions in a 12-month period.

Atkinson covered his tracks by fabricating invoices and deleting eftpos transactions.

Bunbury Magistrates Court was told during his sentencing on Thursday, Atkinson had full access to the business’ records and accounts when he started stealing from the company in June, 2017.

The then store manager would deposit cash into his personal account via ATMs or refund amounts into his account at the Denning Road business.

Atkinson’s employer discovered his manager was stealing from the business in June last year.

Atkinson told police his gambling “spiralled out of control”.

Atkinson’s defence lawyer said his addiction was the “catalyst” of his offending and described it as brazen, unsophisticated and reckless because he was always going to get caught.

Atkinson’s addiction started when he was 17, but escalated when he “started to get bored” after 18 months as store manager.

He said Atkinson was ashamed of his actions and he had a genuine desire to repay the money and several reference letters spoke of his good character.

Atkinson described jail as the “easy way out” because he wanted to remain in the community to deal with his addiction and work to pay back the money.

But police prosecutors said a victim impact statement showed the offending had a “devastating” effect on the business owner.

Magistrate Belinda Coleman said while Atkinson was a man of good character, his offending was “sustained” and the business owner may never recover.

Atkinson was sentenced to 18 months jail, made eligible for parole and ordered to pay restitution of $109,470.

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