THE family of a woman who defrauded more than $33,000 from a Gladstone junior rugby league club sat in the back of a courtroom on Friday, anxiously waiting for the judge to say whether or not the mother of three would go to jail.
The woman - Linda Rae Whelan - was the former treasurer of Past Brothers Junior Rugby League Football Club and over seven months during 2013 and 2014 she took $33,419 of the club's money.
The 38-year-old wrote 11 cheques from the club's book, six of which were cashed. The other five were deposited into her bank account or used to pay her bills.
When Ms Whelan was asked about the club's finances, she had false invoices to explain the 11 cheques.
On another occasion she took about $9600 from club fundraising and a player registration day that was supposed to go into the club's bank account.
When questioned, she had a fake bank statement showing the money had been deposited.
At Brisbane District Court on Friday, Ms Whelan pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and one count of stealing more than $5000.
The court heard the money Ms Whelan took was not to feed an addiction or taken out of greed - it was used to pay bills.
Ms Whelan was also ready to pay back the entire amount, the court heard.
Since the offences, Ms Whelan, her husband and three children have moved from Gladstone to the Sunshine Coast.
District Court Judge Julie Dick said if Ms Whelan were to go to jail, her parents would have to look after the children.
She also said the offences were serious.
"There is a breach of trust because you were the treasurer and so the club relied on you to handle money properly," Judge Dick said.
"This is a small club. I'm told that it is run out of two tin sheds and money is raised through raffles and functions."
Judge Dick said she had two choices - to send Ms Whelan to serve three to six months in jail, or to suspend a jail term completely so she would not have to serve time behind bars.
To the relief of Ms Whelan's family, Judge Dick said she would suspend the jail term if Ms Whelan was able to pay back the money quickly.
Judge Dick also said Ms Whelan had shown good involvement in the community and had no previous convictions.
Ms Whelan was sentenced to two-and-a-half-years in jail, wholly suspended, and ordered to pay back the $33,419 within seven days. - ARM NEWSDESK
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