Australian Woman Steals AU$940,000 to Fund Gambling Addiction

  • Perri’s sentencing will take place next month after she pled guilty to 26 fraud-related charges
  • She spent the stolen money on a gambling app that does not pay out real money winnings
  • The defendant controlled her employer’s accounts and completed 475 fraudulent transactions
  • She has a long history of problem gambling behavior reaching back to when she was 18
  • Social casino apps like Heart of Vegas are facing scrutiny for allegedly bypassing gambling laws
Handcuffs on Australian dollars
A woman in Australia has pleaded guilty to stealing AU$940,000 (US$678,591) from her employer and using the money to fund her gambling addiction. [Image:]

A significant theft

An Australian woman has pled guilty to stealing AU$940,000 (US$678,591) from her employer and using the funds for gambling purposes. Officials charged Rachel Naomi Perri on Monday in the Hobart Supreme Court with a single count of fraud and 25 counts of computer-related fraud. Her sentencing will take place in December.

her employer discovered anomalies in banking transactions

The 49-year-old woman stole the funds while working as a Tasmanian Veterinary Hospital account manager from 2016 until 2019. Following her redundancy in 2019, her employer discovered anomalies in banking transactions. A subsequent investigation uncovered the true size of the theft.

She spent all of the AU$940,000 (US$678,591) playing on a gambling app called Heart of Vegas, a pokies offering that does not allow users to receive any real money winnings. In order to play, gamblers can use real money to purchase the in-game currency, but then can not redeem virtual winnings for real cash.

Extensive fraud

As reported by ABC News, Crown prosecutor Simone Wilson detailed how Perri stole AU$940,221 (US$678,750) across a period of three years and four months. This involved 475 different fraudulent transactions. Perri was able to transfer these funds out of the hospital’s bank account and into various credit cards, bank accounts, and personal loans that she had in her own name. She was the only person who had control over the hospital’s accounts.

During the course of the investigation, police also found that Perri had in 2015 fraudulently received an AU$30,000 (US$21,657) credit card in the name of her husband without him knowing. She managed to accumulate AU$24,000 (US$17,326) in debt on this credit card.

After police interviewed her in November 2019, Perri admitted her guilt immediately. She outlined how she got caught up in her “own little world” whenever she played on the Heart of Vegas app. During the interview, she said that she knew authorities would eventually discover the theft and she was waiting for the police to knock at her door. “I got myself into so much trouble but decided I’d keep going until I got caught,” the offender commented.

Struggles with gambling addiction

According to the defendant’s lawyer, Perri has a long history of gambling. This dates back to her 18th birthday when she paid a visit to the Launceston Casino. The now 49-year-old also had major troubles during the 1990s when she received a conviction after stealing AU$7,000 (US$5,053) in cash from her employer.

Perri moved to Hobart in order to get a fresh start, but she started gambling once more in 2008/2009. Her lawyer spoke about how her client at one time continuously played on a poker machine for 16 consecutive hours. During this time in her life, she accumulated debt worth about AU$200,000 (US$144,381).

would even go to bed and leave the app playing on auto mode

Perri started playing Heart of Vegas in 2014 and quickly fell into another spiral, taking out numerous personal loans and credit cards. She would even go to bed and leave the app playing on auto mode. Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Jordan diagnosed Ms. Perri with a severe gambling disorder. She has since voluntarily gone into therapy and plans to continue with this treatment during her time in prison.

An ongoing area of debate

Gambling apps such as Heart of Vegas are a hot topic in many jurisdictions at the moment. These social casino apps often are able to bypass gambling regulations as they do not pay out any winnings in the form of real money.

In the US, the likes of Google and Apple are facing numerous class-action lawsuits as a result of these types of social casino apps that appear on their respective app stores. In one particular case, some have accused Apple of acting as an “unlicensed casino” by allowing certain types of gambling apps that violate laws in more than 25 states.

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