Woman avoids prison after $250k theft from wine company

A woman from South Australia has avoided a prison sentence after making genuine attempts to pay back the AU$250,000 she stole from the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee between 2014 and 2017.

Sharon Nitschke, who formerly worked in accounts and as the office manager for the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee, was sentenced yesterday (26 August) for embezzling funds from not-for-profit organisation RVIC.

Nitschke previously pleaded guilty to stealing a total of AU$251,350 from the company back in August 2018. Her crime was first brought to light in November 2017 when a colleague discovered a suspicious payment from the company to one of her bank accounts.

As reported by the AAP, the court heard how between 2015 and 2017, Nitschke used the stolen money on expenses including $2,000 on jewellery, $3,000 on a car and over $7,000 on a cruise.

The court was told that Nikschke has paid back over $91,000 to the RIVC, including selling her house to pay back a sum of $50,000. Media reported that her husband had also lost his job following her arrest and remains unemployed.

District Court judge, Rauf Soulio, said: “Your offending escalated and you began making numerous transactions. You transferred money from the RVIC bank account to private accounts and to other unknown accounts.”

“You purchased items to distract yourself from your emotional state and in order to obtain the attention and gratification you received in purchasing items for others.”

Appearing in the District Court in Adelaide, South Australia, Nitschke was given a three-year home detention sentence, with a non-parole period of 18 months.

The RIVC is an institution which aims to improve vine quality and health by identifying prosperous clones, promoting interest and improved knowledge of new varieties, and producing and supplying improved vine material to the industry.

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