A Tasmanian makeup artist stole more than $65,000 from her former employer to fund her “lavish lifestyle”

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A young woman with blonde hair and glasses smiles as she walks away from the camera

A Tasmanian makeup artist stole more than $65,000 from her former employer to fund her “lavish lifestyle”, a court has heard.

Key points:

  • Olivia Rose Rodgers pleaded guilty to 62 counts of dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage
  • Bank statements show she used the money for expenses such as travel, shopping and hotels
  • Her lawyer says she was suffering from an undiagnosed psychological condition

Olivia Rose Rodgers appeared before the Hobart Magistrates Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to 62 counts of dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage in relation to two years she spent working at Bupa Health Insurance.

The court heard the 31-year-old made multiple false insurance claims on behalf of family and friends, but she was the sole beneficiary of the money.

Police prosecutor Ann Edge told the court Rodgers would give various reasons to her family and friends about why the money would land in their bank accounts and then ask them to transfer the money into her account.

But this was not originally evident to police, who initially investigated and charged her family and friends on the belief it was a “joint criminal enterprise”, the court heard.

Rodgers’ lawyer Fabiano Cangelosi told the court: “The accused lived with knowledge that her entire family was under scrutiny, charged and appearing before the Supreme Court of Tasmania because of mistakes she made.”

“In her eyes, they were punished for the things that she had done wrong,” he said.

They included her terminally ill mother.

“[She] has to live with the knowledge that in her mother’s final years she was committed to Supreme Court because of something she [Rodgers] has done,” he said.

Lawyer says Rodgers had ‘undiagnosed’ psychological condition

The defence argued Rodgers stole the money because she was experiencing “some difficulty with payment from Bupa” and was suffering from anxiety and stress.

“[Her] episodes of obtaining financial advantage coincide with pressure from [a] credit provider in relation to a personal loan and not being paid by Bupa in time,” he told the court.

But he admitted it “went well beyond that” and the defendant later used the stolen money on living expenses.

However he argued she was “experiencing a serious psychological condition” that was not medicated, diagnosed or managed in any way at the time.

“She did not think through the consequences of what she was doing,” he said.

He said the fact Rodgers was surprised by the total amount she had stolen when confronted with it by police was further evidence of this.

“She hadn’t fully realised how much she’d taken,” he said.

Evidence of ‘lavish lifestyle’ in bank statements

A man in a suit looks at his phone and he walks down some steps

Rodgers’ lawyer, Fabiano Cangelosi, says at the time of the offending she was suffering from an undiagnosed mental health issue.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

But the prosecution refuted these claims, producing bank statements that revealed “lavish” spending.

Ms Edge told the court Rodgers had stolen out of “greed, opposed to need” and the “evidence of this [was] in her own bank statements”.

“[She stole] so she could live what could only be described as a lavish lifestyle,” she said.

She said the statements showed Rodgers had spent money on multiple interstate trips, hire cars and shopping.

On one occasion, Rodgers flew to Melbourne, stayed at the Hilton Hotel, shopped and then flew to Queensland the following day, before later going to Bali.

A snapshot of her account in November 2015 showed that while she made a little over $4,000 from Bupa and her make-up business, she spent more than $9,000 — funding the rest with money that was unlawfully obtained from Bupa.

Two other monthly “snapshots” showed similar patterns.

Mr Cangelosi argued this overspending and “living beyond her means” was a likely consequence of her psychological condition at the time.

Bupa

Rodgers was a casual employee at Bupa for two years.(ABC News: Nic MacBean)

Ms Edge also said Bupa had disputed Rodgers’s claims about a payroll issue.

She said Rodgers had been a casual employee who was able to take time off at will by making herself unavailable.

The prosecution argued that the gaps in her wages, as shown in the bank statements they procured, related to periods when Rodgers had chosen to take time off to focus on her make-up business.

The times corresponded with “peak wedding season” and there were bank deposits referenced as “wedding” and “make-up”.

Lawyer urges non-custodial sentence

The court heard Rodgers left Bupa in September 2017 and was now a full-time, self-employed, successful make-up artist who was “in demand across the greater Hobart area and the state”.

Mr Cangelosi said sending her to prison would “significantly damage her reputation” and very few people would want to use her as a make-up artist.

“A person who is productive, who has wholly turned from offending [would] no longer be able to pursue productive business,” he said.

“She would have employment but it would be a loss of a very productive business.”

He also said Rodgers intended to care for her terminally ill mother and a potential home detention or jail sentence would make this difficult, arguing if the case had been dealt with sooner, this would not have been an issue.

The sentencing hearing was adjourned for further defence submissions, with Rodgers to be sentenced at a later date.

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