Casino must monitor big spenders: judge

Crown Casino should either ensure money from big spenders is legitimate or be forced to compensate victims of crime for ill-gotten gains gambled by criminals, a Victorian judge says.

County Court Judge Frank Dyett made the remarks as he sentenced Heather MacNeil-Brown, 63, to six years‘ jail – with a minimum non-parole period of four years – for embezzling almost AUD 1 million from the Australian branch of global consulting and accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

MacNeil-Brown, formerly of Mermaid Waters on Queensland’s Gold Coast, pleaded guilty to five counts of obtaining property by deception.

She worked as an accounting services assistant in the Corporate Advisory and Restructuring (CAR) area of PwC from 1999 to 2005.

During a four-and-a-half-year period she fraudulently obtained AUD 920,239 by misappropriating 94 cheques.

After MacNeil-Brown left the company, PwC launched an internal investigation then reported the matter to police.

It was revealed she had written unauthorised cheques to herself from administrations under CAR‘s control.

Judge Dyett said MacNeil-Brown initially spent the proceeds of crime at small pokies venues in Melbourne but from 2002, most of the money was lost at Crown Casino.

He said MacNeil-Brown was a frequent guest at the casino’s Mahogany Room for high rollers.

„Cases of this sort, which are increasing in number, call for consideration of legislation which would put the onus on Crown Casino and other gaming venues to make reasonable inquiries to ensure that large sums of money continually being lost by regular customers, as in this instance, are emanating from legitimate sources,“ Judge Dyett said.

„In default of such inquiries, a civil liability should be imposed by legislation upon these venues to reimburse the victims of crimes of this nature.“

Judge Dyett said MacNeil-Brown’s gambling addiction did not diminish the importance of general deterrence in sentencing.

This was not the first time MacNeil-Brown has ripped off an employer.

Judge Dyett gave her a two-year wholly suspended sentence in the Ballarat County Court in April 2000 for stealing from another employer.