Major Australian Desalination Plant Loses Over $750,000 To Theft

A major desalination plant recently lost a fortune to theft.

An employee at the operation allegedly siphoned money from “Sydney’s mothballed desalination plant into her personal bank account to feed her gambling addiction,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

The total was over 1 million Australian dollars (over $756,000 USD).

The plant, which is currently offline because dam storage levels are above 70 percent in Sydney, has been criticized as a waste of money, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Completed in 2010, it went offline in 2012, according to the facility’s website.

The employee who allegedly stole from the plant, Stella Wyllie, worked for Veolia Water Operations. Veolia operates the Kurnell water plant, according to reports. Wyllie was responsible for paying contractors.

“Wyllie pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining financial advantage after being charged [in February]. The woman, who spent more than two years in jail in Tasmania for a previous incident involving 74 counts of stealing, had worked at Veolia as a site administrator since 2009,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

The news outlet described how she allegedly carried out the crime:

The police statement of facts tendered to the court reveal that for a period of eight months from February 15 last year she made 70 fraudulent electronic transfers totaling AU$1,095,546.90 into her own account, before the firm became suspicious in October.

“Three contractors alleged Veolia had not paid their invoices. However, the accounting system was indicating the invoices were paid,” the police facts state.

Wyllie says she struggles with gambling, The St. George & Sutherland Shire Leader reported:

She was arrested and charged earlier this month after presenting herself to Miranda police station. Police said in the statement of facts that during an interview she made a full admission and blamed a gambling issue. She is due to be sentenced in April.

While it unclear when the plant could come back online, The Daily Telegraph reported in September that the desalination plant is offline “for at least another year” while its roof is repaired.

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