'She's destroyed our lives': Former Cost Plus employee jailed after stealing $45,000

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

A 27-year-old former Mandurah retail employee has been jailed after stealing $45,000 from Cost Plus over a 16-month period, contributing to the store closing its doors for good.

Dawesville resident Lorraine Conley was sentenced on Tuesday, in the Mandurah Magistrates Court, after pleading guilty to repeatedly stealing from Cost Plus Mandurah between July 3, 2014 and November 18, 2015.

Police prosecutor Tamara Read told the court Conley had worked at the shop between 2007 and 2015.

Senior Constable Read said the mother, who was now pregnant with her second child, stole large sums of cash by voiding and refunding transactions on the till and leaving the store with smaller increments of money hidden in her underwear.

Conley's lawyer Trent Petherick told the court his client was addicted to methamphetamine at the time and was in a physically and psychologically abusive relationship with her former boyfriend, who pressured her to take the cash.

I had to sack my staff because the business was forced to close down.

Former Cost Plus manager Karen Barnes

"She did the offending, but it was not alone," he said.

He said Conley's boyfriend had told her manager about the theft after she broke up with him.

Mr Petherick said a psychiatric report writer suggested Conley, who now worked as a housekeeper, had not demonstrated remorse to the victim, former Cost Plus manager, Karen Barnes.

But, Mr Petherick said Conley was not aware she was allowed to communicate with the victim and was "very remorseful and apologetic".

She did the offending, but it was not alone.

Lawyer Trent Petherick

Magistrate Anne Longden told the court Ms Barnes had helped Conley "emotionally and financially" and the repeated theft played a role in the small business closing down.

"Her trust in you, is what enabled you to steal from her," she said.

She said it was a breach of trust "at the highest end".

Ms Longden acknowledged Conley was exposed to "extreme duress and coercion" by her former boyfriend, but she had made the choice to use drugs and steal.

"It was you, ultimately, who made that decision to take money," she said.

It was you, ultimately, who made that decision to take money.

Magistrate Anne Longden

Ms Longden acknowledged Conley was pregnant when deciding on a verdict, but said the mother was aware of the upcoming court date when the child was conceived.

Conley was sentenced to 12 months in prison and was made eligible for parole.

She was ordered to serve three months immediately and the remaining nine months were suspended for a year.

Four Cost Plus employees, including Conley's former manager Karen Barnes, attended the sentencing on Tuesday.

Ms Barnes told the Mandurah Mail it had been three long years of emotional turmoil as the case progressed through court.

"I'm glad it's finally over and she's been held accountable for her actions," she said.

"She's destroyed our lives. I had to sack my staff because the business was forced to close down.

"How do you recover a debt like that? I treated her like family."