Teacher who called in sick to attend Melbourne Cup with husband pleads guilty to fraud
- Suzette Maree Webster, 56, pleaded guilty to fraud while teaching in Brisbane
- She took 17 days of sick leave between 2015 and 2018 that she was not entitled to
- Three of those days were spent at Melbourne Cup functions with her husband
- She was initially charged with 14 fraud cases, but all but one were dismissed
A Queensland teacher who went on sick leave to attend Melbourne Cup Day rallies and travel from one city to another with her husband, the school’s principal, has avoided a conviction for fraud.
Suzette Maree Webster’s actions were “more stupidity than any great intent to deceive,” but clearly fraud, acting magistrate Peter Cooke said at Friday’s sentencing of the 56-year-old.
Webster admitted to committing the fraud while working as a teacher at Wellers Hill State School in Tarragindi, a suburb of Brisbane.
She was charged after an investigation by the state corruption watchdog into her husband John Leonard Webster.
Suzette Maree Webster, a teacher in Brisbane, pleaded guilty to fraud after an investigation revealed 17 days of sick leave she was not entitled to
He is charged with misusing a business credit card and dishonestly obtaining money for school activities.
Crime and Corruption Commission investigators found text messages that did not correlate with her presence at work when she should have been, solicitor Joshua Jones told Brisbane Magistrates Court.
Webster was first charged with 14 fraud counts, but all but one were dismissed by the prosecution.
She pleaded guilty to the remaining charges relating to 17 days on which she took sick leave to which she was not entitled between August 19, 2015 and November 7, 2018.
On three days she attended Melbourne Cup rallies, while on other days she hit the highway with her husband who was on school trips.
Of the 17 days she took, three were spent at Melbourne Cup day functions with her husband
Shortly after the fraud was discovered, Webster refunded $6600, which was the value of the sick leave she had received.
Mr Jones said the court teachers have to do a lot more than one might think their job entails and that there was a culture of the time when people took sick leave in return.
“It was a perception that because of a significant amount of overtime worked that was not reimbursed, it was okay,” he added.
“It wasn’t just them—that’s no excuse…but it also mitigated crime in the sense that it was a cultural thing, not a fraud.”
Webster acknowledged her actions were wrong, but Mr. Jones said her behavior was not the same as that of people who falsified medical certificates.
Webster – who had accrued more than 31 weeks of sick leave – was suspended with pay for nearly two years for the low violation.
The court heard that she had worked in regional Australia during her career and had tutored on her own time to improve the level of education.
Mr. Cooke accepted that Webster was “extremely remorseful” and had a “long and rewarding career as a teacher.”
Ms Webster was given a $1000 bail for good behavior that would be paid if she was offended again within 12 months
“Unfortunately, it can come to an end and that’s a result of your actions,” he told Webster as he condemns her.
‘It seems to me that perhaps it was more stupidity than any great intent to deceive; yet it is clearly fraud.’
He sentenced Webster to a $1,000 fine for good behavior, which she would have to pay if she was found to be in violation again within 12 months.
No conviction was registered.
John Webster’s cases will be listed in the same court on September 12.