She was a high-flying executive so well-regarded in her job at SkyCity, she would at times fill in as general manager.
Little did Tess Grant’s employer know, she spent the majority of her time stealing from them. It wasn’t until she got a new job and was arrested on suspicion of siphoning funds there, that they started to ask questions.
She will be sentenced tomorrow morning in the Hamilton District Court for stealing a total $2.77 million.
The Herald reveals Grant’s relatively sophisticated fraud which spanned eight years and saw her buying a $900,000 property, a $68,000 horse and $55,000 in custom-designed jewellery
High-rolling at SkyCity
Grant began working at the casino giant’s Hamilton branch in November 2006 as its finance manager. The salary was healthy – $125,000 a year.
She filled in at times as general manager when her salary would be bumped up to $189,000.
But two years later, the temptation appeared to get the better of her and she began stealing from her employer.
Although she had a few different methods of getting her hands on money, her main one appeared to be by forging cheques, according to a summary of facts released to the Heraldthis week.
Two signatures were required but, given her position, she was able to persuade others to pre-sign them or convince them it was for a legitimate Skycity expense.
She would then fill it out for a personal expense and either post it or deliver it to the business to bank themselves.
This meant she was able to hide the fact the monies were coming from SkyCity and seeing Grant as the depositor, it wouldn’t raise concerns among those she was paying.
Between December 23, 2009 and February 8, 2010, Grant began stealing money to help construct a horse arena at the property she was living in on Trentham Rd, Matangi.
And over a three-month period from February 2, 2011, Grant used money to pay for landscaping at the same property.
As well as cheques, she also took advantage of the company’s petty cash system which is nicknamed the “cage”.
However, her thefts were anything but petty.
As she had authority to make payments of invoices and other expenses, she altered genuine invoices to allow a duplicate payment to go through.
Between March 4, 2013 and April 26, 2013, Grant made three cash withdrawals totalling $184,250.00. They included two $60,000 withdrawals on the same day.
To get the money, she duplicated or faked invoices from Hawkins Construction which were contracted by the casino to do building work.
She put the money towards the purchase of two properties which would eventually see her build an equestrian centre and import a $60,000 horse from overseas.
She also gave tens of thousands to her then-fiance Jason Bugg, paid off her credit card at Farmlands Trading Society and spent a large amount on equestrian expenses.
In total, an investigation uncovered she stole $1.98 million from SkyCity, a reduced figure from the initial suspected amount of $2.5m.
In 2014 there was a restructure at the company and instead of taking up a promotion as assistant general manager, Grant decided to quit.
In July, she took up a job as commercial manager at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in Hamilton which meant she was second only to the principal and given the same salary of $125,000.
By December she was back to her old ways.
After a school meeting on December 1, Grant altered the minutes about the school choir to read that a staff member needed to be reimbursed $5000 for work on a school project, the court document shows.
She banked the cash.
She also made up a series of false invoices be paid to structural engineering firm Caledonian Design Ltd over a four month period between December 2014 and March 2015 totalling more than $7,000.
However, her biggest theft was also clocked up during that time against two major building projects at the school being carried out by Hawkins Construction.
Although the cost of the project was estimated at $600,000 the cost eventually ballooned out to $1.148 million due to her offending.
Interestingly, all of the invoices had to be approved by the school’s board which included an accountant and a lawyer.
On March 31, she nabbed another $7500 after falsifying a school cheque pretending that it was for asbestos removal. The cheque was instead made out to one of Grant’s friends, for Grant’s benefit.
In April, she faked a cheque to pay for her insurance policy with FMG worth $6,876.63 and clocked up a trip to Christchurch a few days later with her partner worth $1492.
She put the flights down in the names of former school principal Vicky McLennan and her partner. However, McLennan queried the details when they appeared on a credit-card statement.
On July 31, 2015, Grant bought a $900,000 property at Whatawhata, west of Hamilton, to set up as an equestrian centre, complete with an indoor arena.
As well as the $900,000 property, other purchases included;
• $155,000 of stolen money was put towards the purchase of a $285,000 horse coach, and the $182,500 truck chassis it was to sit on
• $68,579.20 for an eventing horse from the UK
• $31,851.22 to transport the horse to New Zealand
• $16,071.75 on a horse float
• $14,735.00 agricultural machinery
• $18,371.16 on horse gear
• $55,850.00 on jewellery including $40,000 platinum diamond ring
In September 2015, an employment investigation began about the irregularities. Grant subsequently resigned.
She was arrested and first appeared in the Hamilton District Court in late 2015.
By December of that year she’d paid back the school what she stole plus an extra $100,000 in interest and legal fees and admitted seven fraud charges, also losing name suppression.
During this time, alarm bells were ringing at SkyCity.
Grant pleaded guilty to the school theft in January and within a few weeks, irregularities came to light from her time at SkyCity, initially to the tune of $1.26m.
The company was successful in applying to the high court to freeze the assets of Grant, her father, John Grant, and his business Boston Six Ltd, Elizabeth Anne Brown, the co-owner of a racehorse with Grant, and J T Equine NZ Ltd, a company owned by Grant.
Discovery orders were also imposed on Grant’s partner Jason Scott, who she shared her Whatawhata home with, along with his mother Pauline Scott.
She was charged over the SkyCity offending and in April last year pleaded not guilty to the charges. She disputed the amount stolen.
By August last year, it was alleged Grant’s offending at SkyCity was worse than first thought and up to $2.5m.
She eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser amount of $1.9m in July.
Finally, tomorrow – nearly two years after she was arrested on the first set of charges – she will be sentenced for the offending against the school and the casino.
Source : New Zealand Herald