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High school business manager jailed over $430,000 theft

A business manager who stole more than $430,000 from Melbourne High School over a decade has been jailed.

Frances Walshe was sentenced to two years imprisonment, with a minimum of 14 months, in the County Court of Victoria on Monday.

The 65-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to stealing and dishonestly obtaining more than $430,000 from her employer over 10 years.

None of the money has been repaid to the school.

Walshe was first employed as an assistant bursar at Melbourne High in 1994 and then promoted to business manager.

On 254 occasions, between January 2012 and September 2021, Walshe transferred funds from the school bank accounts to her own personal bank account.

Account statements found in her office revealed originals with white-out concealing her account details, and copies which because of the white-out did not include that information.

On another 10 occasions she altered payee details on invoices sent by the school, so funds were paid into her account.

The thefts were uncovered after new principal Tony Mordini set out to address the education department's concerns about potential poor financial governance.

In November 2021, he met with Walshe and department staff, confronting her about what was then believed to be the theft of $47,000.

She blamed a gambling problem for the thefts and resigned.

An audit revealed she had stolen $432,546.88 from the school.

Walshe turned to gambling after the abrupt end of her second marriage, when her husband met another woman on a trip to the Philippines.

On Monday, Judge Peter Lauritsen said Walshe had since sought help for her addiction to gambling and alcohol.

"Overall I consider your prospects for rehabilitation are very good," he said.

He said Walshe would have been sentenced to a more lengthy term of imprisonment if she had not pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.