A Victorian disability support worker who received more than $10m after a spectacular bungle from a cryptocurrency platform will not be forced to return to jail, a court has been told.
Thevamanogari Manivel, 41, returned before the County Court of Victoria on Friday for sentencing after pleading guilty to recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Sentencing her to an 18-month community corrections order and time already served, Judge Martine Marich accepted that Manivel was remorseful for her actions and would never have the chance to offend in the same way.
“Your offending was acutely situationally motivated and I can safely assume that situation will not occur again,” she said.
The court was told Manivel’s partner, Jatinder Singh, had set up an account with online cryptocurrency platform Crypto.com in May 2021, later depositing $100 into his account using her Commonwealth Bank account.
Because the names on the two accounts didn’t match up, the platform declined the payment and told Singh it was going to refund Manivel’s money.
A staff member in Bulgaria, who processed the refund, made what Judge Marich labelled a “significant accounting mistake”.
Instead of refunding the $100, the worker set Manivel’s bank account number as the amount to be returned, depositing $10.47m into her account.
Judge Marich said Singh asked Manivel to move the money to their shared account, telling her he had won the money in an online competition.
She transferred $80,000 across to their Westpac account and, later the same day, withdrew $10m in the form of a bank cheque that she deposited in their joint account.
Previously, the court was told much of the money had been spent on property, gifts, vehicles, art and furniture.
Seven months later, Crypto.com discovered the error in an internal audit and contacted Commonwealth Bank to retrieve the money.
The bank contacted Manivel several times urging her to return the money but instead she transferred $4m to a bank account in Malaysia.
Manivel was arrested at Melbourne airport on March 7 last year, with slightly more than $10,000 in cash and a one-way ticket to Malaysia.
At the time she told police that she ignored the bank’s calls, believing they were a “scam” and had trusted what Singh told her.
She was placed in custody amid concerns she had the means to attempt to flee the country and spent 209 days on remand before ultimately being given bail.
Judge Marich said Manivel’s offending was limited to her actions between December 24, 2021, and January 31, 2022, when she had been contacted by the bank but transferred $4m overseas instead.
“For reasons known only to that organisation the error wasn’t discovered for months,” she said.
“The task of sentencing you is a difficult one. Prior to the commission of your offending you were a person of exemplary character … engaging in hard work and diligence to establish a better life.
“The explanation (given by Singh) was too good to be true – and it was.”
Judge Marich found Manivel’s offending was “opportunistic” and she had fallen to the temptation to spirit away the $4m.
The court was told Manivel was no longer in a relationship with Singh, who is scheduled to return to court for a pre-sentence hearing in October after pleading guilty to one count of theft.
She was sentenced to 209 days imprisonment, recognised as time served, and placed on a 18-month community corrections order, with 200 hours of unpaid community work to be completed over an “intensive” six-month period.
Manivel was also ordered to undertake assessment and treatment for her mental health after continuing to suffer from PTSD and hypervigilance stemming from her time in custody.
The court was told “most” of the money had been recovered in civil proceedings launched by Crypto.com and Manivel had “co-operated fully”.