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Former Menindee school employee ordered to repay $20k

Wednesday, 13th April, 2016

By Craig Brealey

 

A school administration manager in Menindee who used false invoices and forged signatures to defraud the NSW Education Department of more than $20,000 has been jailed for 10 months.

Lee Kevin Astill (33) pleaded guilty to 21 charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception while working for the Menindee Central School.

The crimes were committed over the course of a year and Astill was arrested last October. He was sentenced in the Local Court yesterday.

According to the department, between April 2014 and March last year, Astill submitted invoices for building work at the school that was never done, claimed reimbursement for money he had not spent and received advance payments - in once instance, $4400 - for school events that never took place.

He also claimed travel expenses for training courses that were not held, forged signatures on invoices for building material that was never ordered, and even claimed $1949 for crash repairs to school bus that had been paid in full by the insurance company.

In court yesterday, Astill’s lawyer, Joe Hull, pleaded for leniency, and explained that his client suffered from stress and depression, and that he stole the money to fund his addiction to gambling.

But Magistrate Darryl Pearce said that would not save him from going to jail for committing such a serious offence.

“Many people suffer from stress,” said Mr Pearce.

“People who suffer from stress, depression and a desire to gamble can’t hold the community to ransom.”

Mr Pearce sentenced Astill to 18 months’ jail with a non parole period of 10 months, and ordered him to repay $21,251 to the Education Department.

Later in the day, Astill lodged an appeal against the severity of his sentence and sought to be released on bail. Mr Hull argued his client had a good chance of receiving punishment in the District Court that did not involve going to jail.

Mr Pearce said he accepted that Astill’s crimes were mostly related to gambling but that a sentence of full-time custody was warranted.

“I see no reasonable prospect of success in the District Court and I refuse bail,” he said.

Astill’s appeal will be heard in June at the next sittings of the District Court.

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