A devoutly religious woman from Brisbane who took a 30-day cruise and went on a spending spree after nearly USD 100,000 was mistakenly put into her bank account was jailed.
54-year-old Wendy Janine Baulch appeared before Judge Gary Long in the District Court on Monday and pleaded guilty to one count of fraud.
Prosecutor Michael Gawrych told the court that the mother-of-four had not repaid a cent of the USD 93,458, although the bank had frozen USD 28,982 of the missing money which would be returned to the discount chemist chain that lost it.
The remaining USD 60,000-plus had been spent by Baulch on cruises and cash withdrawals.
The court was told Baulch had only USD 5000 in her account when retailer Pharmacy4Less mistakenly deposited the cash into her account on December 31, 2014.
Judge Long told Baulch that “it must have been obvious that this transfer ... was by mistake”.
On the same day she received the cash windfall she withdrew USD 90,000 and transferred it to various credit cards and bank accounts.
Three days later Baulch booked an epic 36-day cruise from Miami to Sydney. She flew from Brisbane to Los Angeles and then Miami the following day. While on board the cruise she withdrew USD 15,000 for spending money.
Her barrister Bruce Mumford told the court she had spent the money “on items of indulgence”.
“She ought to have put in an inquiry about an account that goes from USD 5000 to USD 90,000,” Mr Mumford said.
He said she was “always going to be detected” by police and did not try to hide her spending by using aliases. He added since being released on bail in February 2015, she had been a Bible student at the Nazarene Theological College.
Mr Mumford told the court Baulch planned to join the Salvation Army and work with the underprivileged next year. She previously worked as a hotel and motel manager in rural areas.
Judge Long said Baulch had shown “little co-operation” with authorities. He sentenced her to 18 months’ in jail, to be suspended after 3 months.