Man pleads guilty to stealing from employers

By Liz Mellino

A man stole a total of more than $145 000 from five separate employers during an 18-month period to feed a gambling addiction, a court has heard.

Andrew Edward Bulman, 56, pleaded guilty in Shepparton County Court yesterday to five charges of theft committed while working in managerial positions at different retail stores across the state.

Prosecutor Andrew Moore told the court Bulman stole money from Tasman Meats in Brooklyn (near Melbourne), Total Tools in Shepparton, Caltex in Heathcote, Anaconda in Highett (near Melbourne) and the Reject Shop in Seymour, between January 6, 2017, and July 18, last year.

The court heard Bulman’s gambling addiction started in 2015.

Bulman had worked at Bunnings as a complex manager for 15 years, before the offending, the court heard.

Mr Moore said on August 15, 2016, Bulman started as the manager of Tasman Meats in Brooklyn, where he was responsible for counting the takings at the end of each shift and depositing the banking.

The court heard that between January 6 and January 13, 2017, Bulman stole $21539 from Tasman Meats, taking the money by banking deposits less of the total takings and keeping the balance.

He resigned five days later.

On February 20, he started as the manager of Total Tools in Shepparton where he was left in charge of the store for a couple of weeks in the May while the franchisee was on holiday.

Mr Moore said between May 4 and May 6, Bulman stole $2884.75 from the business, before the franchisee returned from holidays on May 16 and discovered the thefts by investigating the store’s CCTV footage.

That same day Bulman was arrested at Total Tools and interviewed at Shepparton police station, where he denied stealing the money and was released, but left his role.

Mr Moore said on June 12, Bulman was hired as the manager of the Caltex service station in Heathcote where he used an automated cash handling machine.

The court heard between July 18 and November 10 Bulman instructed staff to deposit cash manually into the drop deposit box, stealing $96550 during this time.

He resigned on November 12 after discrepancies were noticed and his area manager contacted him.

He then started work in February the following year as the manager of Anaconda in Highett.

Between April 14 and May 27, he stole $17276, before resigning.

Mr Moore said on June 18, Bulman was hired as the manager of The Reject Shop in Seymour where he stole $8360 between June 25 and July 18.

On July 23, police arrested Bulman and he provided full admissions for his actions.

Defence counsel Tim Fitzpatrick said Bulman had worked as a butcher for 15 years and was married with two children, but that relationship ended in 2010.

Following a divorce, Mr Fitzpatrick said Bulman was involved in a ‘‘toxic’’ relationship with another woman for four years, during which he lost both of his parents.

Mr Fitzpatrick told the court Bulman’s new partner allegedly assaulted him on multiple occasions.

‘‘The death of his father was a watershed moment in his life, the breakdown of his relationship starts and sees the decline of his mother who passed away 12 months later,’’ Mr Fitzpatrick said.

‘‘Following the relationship being abusive in nature, a loss of support, an isolation in his position and the overlying gambling addiction got out of control.’’

Mr Fitzpatrick said Bulman was working six days a week as a butcher and was taking regular medication to control his gambling desire.

‘‘While this is serious offending, the prospects of his re-offending if treated properly would be low — given that we’ve got a man with no prior history up until this time in his life tragically after the breakdown of a very toxic relationship,’’ he said.

Judge William Stuart acknowledged Bulman was given the chance to stop offending after police interviewed him on May 16 last year, but he continued to steal money.

‘‘This is a man who has moved from a police interview where he denies offending in relation to a relatively small amount of money and goes onto something significant,’’ Mr Stuart said.

Mr Stuart acknowledged Bulman’s moral culpability, stating how embarrassed he looked during court proceedings, sitting with his head in his hands.

Bulman will be assessed for a community corrections order and is set to be sentenced.

If you are seeking support for a gambling problem, phone Gambler’s Helpline on 1800858858.