Car salesman sentenced in false accounting case

Former
car salesman Alberto McLaughlin-Martinez received a suspended sentence last
week after trial in June in which a jury found him guilty of two charges of
false accounting and not guilty of theft. The offences occurred in May-June
2008.

Martinez,
49, pleaded guilty to a second charge of theft.

He
admitted during his trial that he gave handwritten receipts to two customers at
Car City after each made a deposit on a vehicle she wished to purchase. He said
he did so because the computer system wasn’t working at the time. He said he
kept the cash and a copy of each receipt in his desk drawer.

Car
City sales manager Lee Arie told the court Martinez had worked there about two
months and received training on how to take a deposit. If the computer was down
when he received cash, he would put it in the cash drawer attached to an
explanation for the accountant to process the next day. He said there was no
protocol for collecting money from a customer and not putting it through the
system.

Mr.
Arie said a customer came to request a refund, but there was no record of her
deposit. When he asked Martinez about it, Martinez took money out of his pocket
and handed it over.

The
manager said he asked why the deposit wasn’t in the system and Martinez said he
needed the money for personal matters. Through further questioning, Mr. Arie
realised a second sum was involved.

In
giving evidence, Martinez told the jury he had not been trained what to do when
the computer wasn’t working. “I just used my common sense.” Crown Counsel John
Masters asked him if he thought the accountant would know about the $300 he
said was in his desk drawer; Martinez replied he didn’t know. The other sum
involved was $500.

In
passing sentence, Justice Charles Quin accepted the submission of Defence Attorney
Lucy Organ that the theft was an isolated aberration. Martinez had said he took
$250 from his desk drawer and gave it to his brother at the hospital because
the brother had been in a traffic accident that weekend and his insurance
didn’t cover the whole treatment.

The
judge said that although Martinez was not in a senior position, his offences
were a breach of trust and he had let down his employers and jeopardised their
good name.

The
money was paid back, so no one lost out, the judge noted. The theft and two
false accountings were committed in a short period and the money was not used
for Martinez’s own pleasure. The defendant had no previous convictions and was
immediately terminated.

Imprisonment
is necessary to reflect the seriousness of abuse of trust, Justice Quin
indicated, so he imposed a sentence of 12 months. However, he suspended it for
two years. If Martinez commits any offence within two years, he will go to jail
for these convictions.