It is reported that a former Coles employee has been charged with fraud and larceny allegedly worth nearly $2 million over a 5-month period of time, from February through to July 2019.
36-year-old Aaron Baslangic was Coles finance executive as Head of Strategic Initiatives for Coles online.
Since his arrest in South-east Melbourne on Friday 9 August, the Supermarket giant has legally frozen his assets through a court order in an effort to prevent his assets being moved, and to allow the recover of at least some of the alleged stolen money.
Coles are reportedly investigating thirteen transaction payments which are considered suspicious, ranging from $52,532 to $304,319.
According to documents to support the freezing order application in the Supreme Court, he is alleged to have made $1.93 million in “questionable transactions” to entities other than Coles.
The suspicious transactions came to light following a change in payment system, discovering payments without invoices, including invoices that were sent from his personal email.
It’s reported that funds were used towards BMW finance, ATO and other entities.
There were transactions above his $75,000 approved limit with apparent emails showing the requisite approval from the General Manager, Karen Donaldson- who has since denied ever approving such transaction, claiming those emails purporting to be her approvals were false.
Baslangic has been granted bail and will be appearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
In NSW, the offence of obtaining a financial advantage or causing a financial disadvantage dishonestly by any deception is a criminal offence carrying up to 10-years prison. This fraud offence is outlined in section 192E Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
While the maximum penalties are rarely imposed by courts, they are reserved for the most serious offenders. Those maximum penalties only apply if the case is dealt with in the District Court. If dealt with in the Local Court, the Local Court Magistrate can impose a maximum penalty of 2-years prison under the law in NSW.
To understand this, you must understand what ‘deception’ and ‘dishonesty’ means under the law.
Deception includes deception by words or conduct as to fact or law, and also includes deception in respect to an intention of a person using the deception. For example, it is deception if you cause a computer, machine or electronic device to make an response that is otherwise not authorised. This is expressed in section 192B Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Dishonesty is being dishonest according to the ordinary standards of people- known by you to be dishonest according to these standards under section 4B Crimes Act 900 (NSW).
If a person is found not guilty of the offence of obtaining financial advantage by deception and dishonesty, he/she can still possibly be guilty of the criminal offence of larceny, according to section 192E(4) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
To be guilty of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception in a NSW Court, the prosecution is required to prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:
- The person accused received a financial benefit; and
- It was the ‘deception’ by the person accused that caused the financial benefit; and
- As such, the person accused was dishonest in the sense he/she was aware he/she was not entitled to the benefit.
A person facing a charge of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception will be ‘not guilty’ resulting in the dismissal of this charge in court, or before the hearing through negotiations with police if any of the following defences apply:
- Where any one of more of the above noted elements of this crimes are not proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt; or
- The financial benefit or advantage was not from anything that the person accused did- for example if there was an intervening event that caused it; or
- The person accused claimed an honest belief that he/she was, and is, legally entitled to the benefit or advantage. This can only succeed if the court can accept that a reasonable person in the shoes of the accused person would’ve held such a belief; or
- The person accused committed the crime out of a necessity or duress.
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