A woman who stole $2.7m from her employers, SkyCity and a Waikato high school, is back before the courts - this time over a glass of pinot gris she enjoyed at a work do.
Tessa Fiona Grant hit the headlines in 2016 after admitting snatching $795,000 in less than a year while she worked at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls as its commercial manager.
As news of that spread her former employer, Hamilton’s SkyCity, began an internal investigation of its own as Grant had worked for them for eight years. By the time she left in 2014, she was the company’s general manager.
SkyCity initially found she’d stolen $1.26 million, but on further analysis that ballooned to $1,980,922.
Her theft totalled $2.77m and she used the money to splash out on a $900,000 property, a $68,000 horse and $55,000 in custom-designed jewellery.
She was able to carry out her thefts by falsifying cheques in her role at SkyCity and falsifying invoices as the Hamilton high school carried out works on a new build on-site.
She was jailed for seven years and eight months - with a 50 per cent minimum non-parole period - but that was reduced to six years on appeal.
The stolen monies were eventually paid back with help from her father.
Grant, 48, was eventually released on parole in February 2021, while her sentence - which banned her from getting a new job - officially came to an end in September last year.
It was from then that Grant was officially allowed to start back at work, including having any role in a business, trust, company or other entity, without needing approval from a probation officer first.
She was also subject to alcohol or drug testing up until her sentence end date four months ago.
‘It was a poor decision’
This week she was back before the courts.
She made a brief appearance before community magistrate Kim Davies today where, through duty lawyer Kerry Hadaway, she pleaded guilty to a charge of driving with an excess breath alcohol level of 589mcg on December 14 last year. The legal limit is 250mcg.
Grant was driving down Greenwood St, Hamilton, at 10.38pm when she was stopped at a police checkpoint near the intersection with Duke St.
She told attending officers she’d only had one glass of wine at a work event but she hadn’t eaten all day.
Hadaway said it was Grant’s first drink-driving conviction and she hadn’t been before the court in eight years.
Grant was now working about 20 hours a week for an “equine company” doing teaching work.
Tessa Grant leaves the Hamilton District Court in 2017 after admitting defrauding Waikato Diocesan School for Girls out of $795,000. Photo / Belinda Feek
“She also looks after her sick mother so she has had some difficult personal issues in recent times.
“She accepts it was a poor decision on her part and wishes to ensure your worship that it won’t happen again,” Hadaway said.
Grant could pay a fine off in instalments.
Davies accepted she had no previous drink-driving convictions but noted her relatively high alcohol level.
“You had been out with some workmates at a work event and hadn’t eaten all day and you say you had one glass of pinot gris but your level was very high.”
She convicted Grant and ordered her to pay a fine of $550, court costs of $130 and disqualified her from driving for six months from today.
Belinda Feek is an Open Justice reporter based in Waikato. She has worked at NZME for eight years and been a journalist for 19.
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