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Guide Dogs boss who stole $210k faces possible 10-year sentence

Guide Dogs Victoria has faith the justice system will appropriately sentence a former general manager who stole $210,000 from the charity to pay for home improvements and personal expenses.

The not-for-profit’s CEO Ms Karen Hayes made the comments, after Mr Sandro Cirianni pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining a financial advantage by deception in the County Court of Victoria last Thursday.

The court heard the Cirianni, who previously earned $160,000 a year but now faces a maximum 10-year prison term, began stealing two years into his tenure, with the offending continuing for three years.

Hayes told Insight all funds lost in the theft were recovered within days of complaining to authorities.

“Guide Dogs Victoria is unable to make further comment in regard to this matter until sentencing is complete. We have full faith in the judicial syst to appropriately prosecute and sentence all perpetrators of fraud,” she said.

According to The Herald Sun, suspicions were raised when a forensic audit discovered the 49-year-old had invoiced home improvents, including a new pool, shower screens, doors, roofing, fencing and insulation, to a building project the charity was undertaking.

It was also reported that Cirianni made 117 improper purchases, using the charity’s bankcards to pay for meals out, personal its and fuel for his car.

Guide Dogs Victoria began an independent audit after three air conditioning units found to be missing from a 2016 stocktake were traced to Cirianni’s home. He left the organisation three months before his activities were uncovered. Cirianni has reportedly paid back the stolen money as well as the cost of the audit, and said: “I love the organisation, I have made a terrible mistake.”

Cirianni’s lawyer Mr Brendan Murphy, QC, told the court his client suffered from a fear of death and was trying to “squirrel away whatever he could to secure a future for the family”. He argued against a jail term as he claimed his client was vulnerable, suffering from a medical condition that meant a single punch could kill him.

Murphy told the court other inmates were also likely to view Cirianni’s stealing as being “like shooting Bambi” and asked that his client be given a community Corrections Order instead of a jail sentence. However, Judge Susan Cohen told Cirianni’s lawyers a term of imprisonment was a distinct possibility.

Cirianni is due to be sentenced later in December.