How decorated Legion of Honour winner sold 200 inscribed bricks for $50 claiming she was ‘raising funds for Anzacs’ – but instead spent the money on gambling and online shopping
- Yvonne Mary Hall, 69, awarded France’s prestigious Legion of Honour
- Pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception
- Hall spent $140,000 on living expenses, gambling and online shopping
A woman who co-founded a charity that claimed to sell bricks to establish a memorial at the Pozieres battlefield in France, yet used the money for her personal use, has avoided a prison term for her theft.
Yvonne Mary Hall, 69, who has been awarded France’s prestigious Legion of Honour, was ordered to serve a 16-month intensive corrections order by a magistrate at Coffs Harbour Local Court on Monday.
The Coffs Harbour, NSW, woman had earlier entered guilty pleas to two counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one charge of using a false document to influence exercise of public duty.
Yvonne Mary Hall, 69, is seen after leaving the Coffs Harbour Local Court in Coffs Harbour, after being given an intensive corrections order for scamming people to buy bricks to build a WWI memorial in France (above)
The Pozieres Remembrance Association, co-founded by Hall in 2010 and which she acted as the secretary of, claims to have sold more than 4200 inscribed bricks for $50 each since 2014.
The funds raised were meant to honour the 6800 Anzacs who were killed or died of wounds from the battles at the French village in the First World War.
Instead, Hall made 143 transactions to withdraw approximately $140,000 of the money raised to pay for her own everyday living expenses, a gambling addiction and an online shopping habit.
“The breach of trust was obviously very significant indeed. She was in a position of secretary of the organisation and she directly breached that trust,” magistrate Ian Rodgers said.
In passing down the sentence, Mr Rodgers recognised that all but $8052 of the money taken had been repaid by Hall.
He ordered that along with the corrections order, Hall complete 100 hours of community service and the remainder of the money owed be repaid.
Hall’s lawyer said the association had made payments to ensure the bricks with the requested inscriptions on them were manufactured.
It was the defence’s understanding that the bricks were currently on a boat headed toward France and would be put in position on site soon.
Sitting in the public gallery during the hearing was one of those who purchased a brick in 2015 but was constantly left to wonder where the money was and what progress for the memorial was being made.
Jacqueline Kennedy bought a brick to honour her great uncle Percy Smythe, who fought, and survived, in Pozieres.
It wasn’t until she asked the Department of Fair Trading to investigate that the level of deception involved in the case became apparent.
She said Monday’s sentence was a satisfactory one and she was happy Hall would be “treated like the criminal that she is”.
“I always knew that it would be a non-custodial sentence because of her age and health, and she does like to play on that, but I’m very satisfied with the seriousness with which the judge took the case and handed down the sentence,” Ms Kennedy said outside court.
In 2016, Hall was awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit, for raising awareness of the Battle of Pozieres and strengthening Australian-French relations.