Dad 'financially ruined'

Peter John Gretton

Peter John Gretton

A failed marriage that led to him briefly losing custody of his two daughters and a life beset by alcohol abuse and heavy gambling sat at the heart of a Thurgoona man stealing $3.1 million.

But as low as he was at the time he began his 12-year run of offending, he was now effectively destitute, a sentence hearing has heard.

Peter John Gretton, 59, defence barrister Christine Mendes put to the District Court in Albury this week, was “someone who faces being a broken man”.

Ms Mendes said Gretton would lose absolutely everything in an effort to try to repay some of what he had stolen.

That amounted to about $650,000 out of the approximately $3.1 million he took from the Jones Hotel Group between 2005 and 2017.

Any outstanding monies will be the subject of separate civil proceedings, rather than a Crown application for compensation.

While he had accepted he faced jail, Ms Mendes asked that consideration be given to the dire future faced by her client – who, she said, had had suicidal thoughts over his predicament. A lengthy period of incarceration could exacerbate that.

“It’s highly unlikely that he is someone who will easily find, if at all, paid employment.”

Gretton was working as a book keeper for only six weeks when he began his offending, though the court heard the accused had revealed to police how he had also carried out a one-off theft of about $2000 in 2002.

Director of Public Prosecutions representative Aaron Thomas said trust was placed in Gretton, though the company’s structure of seniority was not known.

The offending was detected after Gretton retired in November from the business – which operates the Siesta Hotel at Lavington, the Quality Hotel in Olive Street and the Quality Hotel at Wangaratta – and a company director reconciled the accounts.

She found a cheque made out to “Zoet Print” where the stub was crossed out as if cancelled then it appeared as a debit of $2429.07. It was then made out to Gretton – one of 2000 cheques eventually found ranging from $2000 to $3000.

Ms Mendes said the offences “of course involved some planning” but it could not be found to be “a terribly sophisticated offence. It was rather simple in the way it was executed.” A forensic psychologist reported that Gretton’s offending arose from “a complex set of adverse life events”.

Gretton, supported in court by his daughters, will be sentenced on May 23.