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Queenstown jewelry store manager Michael Hill steals over $50,000


Store manager Michael Hill in Queenstown stole money and jewelery from his employer for over two years. Picture / File

Queenstown store manager Michael Hill stole cash and jewelery from his employer for more than two years before being caught by suspicious colleagues.

The man, who was granted a permanent name deletion by Judge Russell Walker, was convicted on Monday of robbery and theft by someone with a special relationship in Queenstown court.

He became manager of the jewelry chain’s resort branch after three years running his store in a Christchurch mall.

Suspicions about his activities were raised with the management of the company last April by three employees, and he was suspended the following month, then resigned, after the opening of an internal investigation.

After the company brought the case to the police, an investigation conducted between February 2019 and last May, its offenses included stealing jewelry, processing fictitious refunds, refunding personal bank accounts, providing phone numbers personal account to customers to pay for jewelry and embezzlement of money.

A total of $77,427.34 in cash and money transfers was diverted from stores in Queenstown and Christchurch.

On October 7 last year, police searched her home and found 14 pieces of jewelry in her bedroom wardrobe, including diamond rings, wedding rings, gold chains, a necklace and earrings.

Among the items was a diamond ring he had listed for sale on Trade Me earlier last year.

The items, excluding the diamond ring, were valued at $18,030.

The final loss for the company was calculated at just over $50,000.

The defendant’s attorney, Bryony Shackell, said he suffered from a serious gambling addiction.

He was extremely remorseful and had proactively sought professional help to address his addiction.

A probation service report said the defendant “felt sick” stealing the money and had trouble sleeping for the duration of his offence.

He told the report writer that he had stolen from a business he loved, letting his addiction “completely suppress my morals and beliefs.”

Walker told the defendant that his offense subsidized “a lifestyle you couldn’t afford” and was a major breach of trust given his role as a branch manager.

He gave discounts for his guilty plea, previous good character, offer to pay reparations, remorse and prospects for rehabilitation, arriving at a 16½ month prison sentence, which he converted to eight months of house arrest.

The defendant, who will be subject to post-custody conditions for six months, was ordered to immediately pay the company $25,000 in reparations, with the rate of payment of the balance to be decided after his financial status is established.

Walker said he was granting the name to be permanently removed on the grounds that publication would interfere with his recovery from gambling addiction and other mental health issues.