Serial thief stole $21,000 from bosses

By Brigid Simeoni

BEFORE being sent to jail for stealing $21,000 from various employers, serial thief Leonie Marie Hartas made a speech from the dock, in which she said deep down she was a "good person".

Hartas, 31, will spend at least 18 months behind bars after helping herself to $21,111 from workplaces during 10 months, in breach of suspended jail terms and probation for dishonesty.

Described as "inherently dishonest", Hartas told Ipswich District Court she had been on marijuana for the past two years and despite what was going on in her life, she had no right to steal.

She has been stealing from her employers since 2000.

On two previous occasions she has been sentenced for thefts totalling about $65,000 and $23,000.

Crown prosecutor Reuben Carlos said no other business owner should be exposed to Hartas, an "inherently dishonest person" who considered her employer's money her own.

"One wonders how she got this job in the first place," Mr Carlos told the court.

Hartas admitted she "felt like doing a runner", but said she knew she had to face yesterday's sentence.

"I am very remorseful for the things I've done again and again and again," Hartas told Judge Deborah Richards.

The court was told a gambling addiction and psychological problems were cited as factors in Hartas's earlier offending while the most recent theft was linked to reliance on drugs.

In total, she was sentenced to four years' jail and would be considered eligible for parole after serving 18 months.

Barrister Steve Kissick, for Hartas, said his client had been working through courses in the Drug Court, but ultimately was not eligible.

Mr Kissick said his client developed a marijuana problem and had been diagnosed with depression.

Yesterday Hartas, from Bongaree near the Sunshine Coast, pleaded guilty to four counts of stealing as a servant and two of fraud.

The offences, dated between September 2006 and July this year, were committed against businesses in various locations, including Redbank and Wacol.

Speaking after her lawyer's submissions, Hartas told the court she knew the repercussions of her actions were not worth it and deep down she was a good person.

"I know that, and that's what's going to get me through this time in jail," the defendant said.

Judge Richards said deterrence was important given the extent of the fraud.

"Certainly there's the employers' need to know that when people persistently take money from them, that significant periods of imprisonment will be imposed," Judge Richards said.

Judge Richards told Hartas it seemed going through the Drug Court had given her some insight into her drug problem and with determination she could turn her life around.

For the fraud offences, Judge Richards sentenced her to 18 months' jail while a cumulative two-and-a-half years' jail was imposed for the breaches of court orders.

With 74 days of pre-sentence custody declared time already served, Hartas will be eligible for parole in March 2009.

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