Bushfire fraudster pleads guilty
A mother of two has pleaded guilty to posing as a bushfire victim and stealing Christmas presents intended for children of the Cudlee Creek blaze.
Sarah Treloar, 36, appeared in the Murray Bridge Court on Wednesday, where she admitted to deceiving a number of charitable organisations to obtain money, clothes, boxes of food and presents for children donated by the public.
Treloar also pleaded guilty to deceiving a well-meaning Woolworths employee in Murray Bridge, who donated $50 of his own cash when told she had lost everything in the bushfire.
The deception charges related to offences committed on December 22, 24 and 25 last year. The goods and cash had a total value of about $300.
A prosecutor told the court Treloar, of Murray Bridge, intentionally deceived charities including Lobethal Bushfire Relief by claiming she was a victim of domestic abuse who had lost her home to the blaze.
The prosecutor said she showed no sign of remorse.
"This is serious offending. It's taken advantage of volunteer organisations set up to assist people in dire need at the time," she said. "The defendant has continued to contact some of the people in the organisations asking for help, despite the fact that she is aware that she is not a victim of the Cudlee Creek fire or entitled to their assistance.
"So I think there's no remorse that's been shown, given that she's continuing to see how the organisations are set up for bushfire relief victims."
Treloar's lawyer William Marsh asked the court to show leniency.
He said Treloar was the sole carer for her son, 5, and daughter, 7.
Mr Marsh said Treloar was also suffering from mental health issues, had been without stable accommodation since January, and was living in a trailer in her parents' backyard.
This, he said, had led her to approach charities for help.
"It was in the lead-up to Christmas that she didn't have stable accommodation or food or transport. Those are the things she did convey to those charities," he said.
"She had, and that was indicated by what she told police, sought relief from mainstream charities with limited success and had in turn been passed on to these specific bushfire-related charities."
Mr Marsh said Treloar's "overall circumstances were at the time not undeserving of charity" but "not relevant to these specific charities from which she did receive those benefits."
Magistrate Paul Bennett said he will hand down his decision on penalties next week.
Originally published as Bushfire fraudster pleads guilty