11 Sep 2017

Ex-casino manager sentenced for $2.5m fraud

2:09 pm on 11 September 2017

Tessa Grant has been jailed for more than seven years for a $2.5m fraud against SkyCity Casino in Hamilton and a Waikato school.

Tessa Grant at Hamilton District Court on 11 September 2017.

Tessa Grant at Hamilton District Court today. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Tessa Grant, 41, had earlier pleaded guilty to 10 fraud and theft charges covering a period between 2008 and 2015.

She was sentenced on Monday in the Hamilton District Court.

Grant was originally charged with stealing $796,000 000 from Waikato Diocesan School where she was its commercial manager.

Charges were later laid relating to her time as finance manager and then general manager at Sky City Casino in Hamilton where she stole $1.98 million.

Sky City Casino only started an investigation after Grant was charged with stealing from the school.

The court heard that the money was spent on a lifestyle centred around equestrian sport and included spending on the purchase of a property for a horse arena, a horse-truck and just over $300,000 to an unnamed member of the New Zealand high-performance equestrian team.

Grant obtained the money from Sky City Casino by using cheques drawn on its account totalling $1.69m.

She used false invoices related to building projects at the school and falsified minutes to steal the money from it in the 14 months she worked there.

Crown Prosecutor Ross Douch said Grant's overriding motivation was for personal satisfaction and was not remorseful apart from getting caught.

Grant's lawyer Guyon Foley told the court that his client was abjectly remorseful and had tried to make matters right.

Judge Philip Connell told Grant that he saw no sincere expression of any discernible remorse.

The money stolen from Waikato Diocesan School was paid back with interest and legal costs but Sky City Casino is still chasing its money through civil court proceedings.

Sky City Casino spokesperson Erica Jenkin said the company had so far spent about $500,000 investigating the case.

In a statement from Waikato Diocesan, chairperson Lynette Pearks said the school has moved on from its experience with Tessa Grant and is in good heart.

She said the school had closure of the case towards the end of 2015 when it received full reparation.