Salamander Bay NRMA manager Maree Ann Preece jailed for stealing $50,000

THE former manager of NRMA’s Salamander Bay branch has been jailed for a maximum of 16 months after she admitted to stealing nearly $50,000 to fund her poker machine addiction.

Maree Ann Preece, 48, of Corlette, appeared in Raymond Terrace Local Court on Friday where she was sentenced to a non-parole period of 10 months and ordered to repay $49,305.05 to the franchisee of the Bagnall Beach Road branch. 

Preece began working as the manager at the NRMA’s Salamander Bay branch in early 2016 and was tasked with depositing takings at the nearby National Australia Bank each day, according to a statement of police facts.

But on January 30 this year, Preece went off sick. 

On February 22, an NRMA Hunter Valley representative called the franchisee to report a discrepancy in the banking for his branch.   

A subsequent audit revealed that between January 4 and January 25 none of the cash deposits had been taken to the bank and a total of $49,305.05 was outstanding. 

The franchisee then completed a physical audit of the records at the Salamander Bay branch and found there were 16 banking deposit slips missing. 

When spoken to by police, Preece admitted she had stolen money for about 10 months and used it to gamble on poker machines.

She said she used the takings from subsequent days to pay back earlier thefts in a bid to balance the books but went off sick when the thefts became too large to cover up. 

Preece pleaded guilty in April to a charge of stealing property as a clerk or servant greater than $15,000 and the matter was adjourned so she could undergo an assessment for an intensive corrections order, a form of custodial sentence served in the community.

But Magistrate Caleb Franklin had warned Preece their was no guarantee she would avoid a full-time jail sentence.

And on Friday, Mr Franklin ordered she serve at least 10 months in jail for the large-scale and long-running fraud. 

She will be eligible for parole on April 15 next year.