A former Coles executive who stole close to $2 million from the supermarket giant could be released from jail in a little over a year.
Aaron Baslangic, 40, was the head of Coles’ strategic initiatives division in early 2019 when he made 14 fraudulent payments from the company into his personal bank account.
In total, Baslangic stole $1.978 million from Coles, in what County Court Judge Duncan Allen described as “extremely unsophisticated offending”.
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“You made no attempt to hide where the funds were being deposited,” he said in his sentencing remarks on Tuesday.
“They were placed into an account in your name.”
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Baslangic owned up to his crimes when they were discovered and has managed to repay about $1.3 million.
He pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court to charges of obtaining financial advantage and property by deception.
Allen noted Baslangic could not explain why he offended, other than to say he was not in the right state of mind.
The judge accepted Baslangic had diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from a difficult childhood and his time in the Turkish military, from which he was discharged after being shot.
Baslangic moved to Australia in 2011 and joined Coles in 2014 but began feeling overwhelmed by his increasing workload and long days, Allen noted.
Aaron Baslangic. Credit: 7NEWS
Baslangic was also supporting his former wife through her own health issues while seeking support for his poor mental health, the judge said.
“There is no doubt in my mind the combination of the psychological, mental, emotional, financial and work-related pressures in your life did lead and explain your bizarre conduct,” the judge said.
The circumstances around his crimes reduced Baslangic’s moral culpability and it was clear he was genuinely remorseful, Allen said.
The judge also accepted Baslangic would find jail more burdensome due to his diagnosed PTSD but he had excellent prospects of rehabilitation.
Baslangic was sentenced to three years and six months in jail but he will be eligible for parole after 20 months.
He has already served just over four months in pre-sentence detention.
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