Read the ‘dishonest’ mum’s extraordinary $170k fraud spree, Perth, Western Australia

Read the 'dishonest' mum's extraordinary $170k fraud spree, Perth, Western Australia 2
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Pictured: Kristi Anne Barden, 46

Pictured: Kristi Anne Barden, 46

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The full extent of a serial fraudster’s extraordinary crime spree has been revealed – after the mother-of-two was slapped with a four-year jail sentence for swiping more than $178,000 from her bosses.

Kristi Anne Barden, from Perth, billed her employer – an environmental consultancy group called Strategen – for luxurious holidays and a rental car, and kept a company laptop even after she was made redundant.

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Her fraud campaign was carried out over a two-and-a-half-year period – between 2017 and 2020 – before she was eventually caught. 

The self-described ‘functioning alcoholic’ pleaded guilty to one theft charge and 47 fraud charges in Western Australia’s District Court on June 23. 

According to court documents seen by Daily Mail Australia, the 46-year-old was working as a senior administrator when began falsifying invoices by swapping the company’s bank details with her own.

In 2019, she claimed two stays Seaspray Beach Holiday Park worth more than $3000 combined, a $2800 stay at Redgum Village Dandaragan, both in regional WA – despite no field work taking place on the dates of her holidays.

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The following year, she claimed a staycation at Perth’s five-star hotel, COMO The Treasury – worth more than $2,700 – as a work-related expense.

Barden claimed multiple holidays as work expenses, including a stay at the luxury COMO The Treasury (pictured) in Perth

Barden claimed multiple holidays as work expenses, including a stay at the luxury COMO The Treasury (pictured) in Perth

Despite invoicing her stay at COMO The Treasury (pictured), her employer had no record of field work on the dates in her invoices

Despite invoicing her stay at COMO The Treasury (pictured), her employer had no record of field work on the dates in her invoices

Barden rented a Mitsubishi ASX from Thrifty under her employer’s name, despite having no approval to do so, and kept the car for a year after she was made redundant in October 2020. 

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The car was reported as stolen after Strategen was slapped with a $28,000 invoice for the hire – but when Thrifty contacted her about it, Barden said she had nothing to do with the vehicle since her redundancy.

It was found abandoned with a smashed window a month later, in February 2021 – when police were attending the vehicle, Barden approached them and asked if she could retrieve her sunglasses from inside.

She lied and told offices that she was allowed to keep the car as part of her redundancy package, and handed the keys to police.

When investigators raided her Perth home, they found a HP laptop owned by her employer, which she was not allowed to keep after she was forced out of the company.

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Barden was arrested in May last year and accused of siphoning a total of $178,107.03 from Strategen.

Her lawyer Roisin Keating told the court Barden describes herself as a ‘functioning alcoholic’ who was abusing pain medication and drinking two bottles of wine each night to deal with trauma associated with being in a violent relationship.

Barden rented a Mitsubishi ASX from Thrifty (stock image) under her employer's name, despite having no approval to do so

Barden rented a Mitsubishi ASX from Thrifty (stock image) under her employer’s name, despite having no approval to do so

The Mitsubishi ASX (stock image) was reported as stolen after Strategen was slapped with a $28,000 invoice for the hire

The Mitsubishi ASX (stock image) was reported as stolen after Strategen was slapped with a $28,000 invoice for the hire

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‘In the months preceding this offending, Ms Barden had commenced a relationship which was unfortunately marred with violence and psychological abuse,’ Ms Keating said in court on June 23.

‘That relationship ended in 2018, but when it did, your Honour, Ms Barden was left, as I say, with significant debts.’

Barden, who has been jailed for similar offences once in 2010 and again in 2013, knew her actions were wrong but thought, ‘I’m not going to get away with this, but I’ll just do it while I can’, according to Ms Keating.

During her sentencing, Judge Wendy Gillan said the defendant ‘resorted to the offending to alleviate the feelings of stress and, it would appear from the submissions made today, also debt’.

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The judge also outlined Barden’s complex upbringing and misfortunes she endured in her early adult life – growing up in a strict and religious household, being homeschooled, and having very few friends as a result.

She left home as a young adult to live with her grandparents, and is still in the process of rebuilding relationships with her immediate family. 

At 18, Barden was in a car accident so severe she had to relearn to walk and talk again, but which left her with chronic back problems.

Her first husband died in aa horrific incident, leaving her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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When police raided her house, they found a HP laptop (stock image) that belonged to her employer

When police raided her house, they found a HP laptop (stock image) that belonged to her employer

Though she and her second husband separated, they have two teenagers together and maintained a good relationship.

Barden never lost custody of her children, but the court heard she continually defrauded her employer to provide for them.

Judge Gillan accepted Barden’s remorse for her two-year fraud campaign, but questioned how sorry she could really be – given her criminal record.

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‘Presumably she was remorseful for that offending as well,’ the judge said.

‘So her remorse, even if I accept that she’s remorseful and I’m more than happy to accept that she’s remorseful, but how far does that take things by way of mitigation?’

Judge Gillan told Barden her crimes involved ‘substantial dishonesty’ and that she abused her position of trust within the company.

‘You will be a real risk of reoffending because you’ve engaged in psychological intervention in the past, and that has not put you off on this occasion,’ she said.

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‘But that doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of addressing your issues going forward, but you will have to do that before you could – I could have found, really, that you were at no risk of further offending in the future.’

Barden hopes to reenter the workforce upon her release from jail, but plans to seek ‘menial employment’ – where she wouldn’t be responsible for finances or bookkeeping.

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