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Funeral Thief Released On Bail After Being Sentenced To Jail

A gambling addict who stole more than $7000 of funeral donations has walked free from court, an hour after being sentenced to 15 months jail.

Paul Pecora was given a non-parole period of six months imprisonment this morning, but immediately appealed.

The 58-year-old was found to have stolen more than $7500 from two funerals in 2017.

He found them in the newspaper, searching for services that asked for donations in lieu of flowers.

He was caught on CCTV at two of them.

Pecora enters court on March 27.

Once, at the memorial for Melbourne man Shane, in Avondale Heights. The donations were for his autistic son.

Shane's bereaved family appealed for the money to be returned and days later, Pecora handed himself in -- but not before trying to steal donations from another funeral in Essendon.

“Mortified that someone could do that,” Shane’s former partner said.

“How can someone go to a funeral and steal?”

In sentencing, Magistrate Kay Robertson outlined the "graphic impact" of Pecora's crimes, saying "you stole from grieving, vulnerable people" and "devastated Shane's family as they lost the one positive thing they could conceive at that time".

The son's mother told 10 News First “it’s hard because I’m left to do everything on my own, I’m raising Kai on my own".

"The money would have done a lot.”

The mother said the money would have been used to help raise her son.

The 15-month sentence had been a relief for Shane’s grieving family, happy to finally put this devastating chapter behind them.

But Pecora walked free an hour later, granted bail under strict conditions.

He’s not allowed to enter any gaming venues or the church where the thefts took place, and is prohibited from attending any funerals unless given prior permission.

Pecora will appeal his sentence in the County Court in May.