Woman Jailed For Stealing From Autism Charity

A woman has been sentenced to at least 12 months in jail for for defrauding more than $300,000 from a autism charity.

Marissa Esposito, 22, from Gosford NSW, was charged with two counts of dishonestly obtaining financial gain, after she was found to have siphoned money from the Autism Central Coast centre into personal accounts while she was working as an accounts and administration clerk.

The magistrate called her behaviour a “complete and utter breach” of trust towards her employer and the community.

Esposito had been working at the centre for 10 months before going on maternity leave. The company underwent an audit soon after in order to become a “benevolent status” charity -- and Esposito’s replacement found the numbers on the books didn’t add up.

Over 79 transactions, she funnelled more than $327,000 into her own private accounts, disguised as staff wages and superannuation. She also stole money from a day care business owned by the same organisation.

The magistrate said Esposito had written him a letter expressing "shame and remorse and how she let everyone down".

Centre founder Rosa Trigg and her husband Jason, a board member, hired Esposito in April 2017, having known her since she was a child. The ACC was founded in 2015 to provide care for people with autism, advocacy and support services, as well as respite and housing.

The pair said they were devastated by her actions, and claimed they would never recoup the losses. Outside court, Jason said Esposito had only repaid $16,000 of the money taken and he did not expect to receive any more money from her. He said he had considered selling his house to raise funds.

Esposito. Photo: 10 News First

He said he was relieved Esposito had been jailed but the minimum 12-month sentence could have been longer.

The centre will be forced to decrease the number of support houses it currently leases, as it can no longer afford to pay rent on two of the properties.

The magistrate sentenced Esposito to two years jail with a non-parole period of 12 months for the first count of fraud, and six months for the second count. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

Esposito will be eligible for parole in May 2020.

With AAP.