An Australian woman has pleaded guilty to stealing almost AU$1million from her employer to fund her gambling addiction to an online play money slots app.
49-year-old Rachel Naomi Perri – an account manager at the Tasmanian Veterinary Hospital – admitted to making 475 fraudulent transactions totalling AU$940,221 (US675,000) between 2016 and 2019.
Addicted to Play Money app
She then used the money to fund her addiction to an app called Heart of Vegas, which describes itself as featuring “real Vegas slot machines just like the ones you know and love”.
Unlike the majority of fraud cases involving gambling addiction, however, Heart of Vegas does not offer the dream of riches.
Instead players have to pay for virtual items, and its terms and conditions state: “regardless of the terminology used, virtual items may never be redeemed for ‘real world’ money”.
Perri’s incredible fraud was only discovered after she had been made redundant in 2019, an investigation revealing the extent of her theft.
As the sole person in charge of managing accounts, Perri had transferred money from the hospital’s bank account to a variety of bank accounts, credit cards and personal loans in her own name.
Confession and credit cards
Perri immediately confessed when police confronted her, telling them, “I’m guilty.” Charged with 25 counts of computer-related fraud and one count of fraud, Perri faced the Supreme Court in Hobart, Tasmania on Monday.
The court heard from her police interview in which she confessed:
“I got myself into so much trouble but decided I’d keep going until [I] got caught.” Perri added: “I knew I couldn’t get away with it. I was waiting for a knock on the door from police.”
When that knock came, it also uncovered that Perri had racked up a further AU$24,000 in debt in her husband’s name on a $30k credit card, without his knowledge.
She told the court that Heart of Vegas’ games were “similar to playing pokies and you shop to purchase coins or credits,” and that she was in her “own little world” when playing the game.
The court heard how Perri had a “lengthy history of gambling”, starting “on the day she turned 18,” according to her lawyer, Greg Barns.
“She began to use poker machines and she won $26 from placing a dollar into a machine and, as she described, it went from there.”
Perri had previously been convicted of stealing $7,000 in cash from her employer in the 1990s before moving to Hobart for “a fresh start” but she “returned to gambling in 2008-09”.
Sixteen hour playing sessions on the app found her AU$200,000 in debt racked up on credit cards before she began her fraudulent activity at the hospital in 2015.
That was after she discovered Heart of Vegas, Mr Barns revealing:
“She got so addicted that she’d play it first thing in morning…She would set it up at night so it played in auto.”
Gambling Disorder says psychiatrist
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Michael Jordan “considered that Perri’s gambling disorder was the most significant factor in her fraud activity,” Mr Barns told the court. “[Her gambling was] essentially mindless, with no hope of any financial gain.”
Ms Wilson, prosecuting, told the court:
“It was planned, calculated systematic conduct where the accused employed multiple accounting [techniques and the books were] consistently balanced.”
Perri, who faces a “lengthy prison sentence” was remanded in custody to be sentenced next month.
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