Fraudster will retain AFP clearance for work at Queensland's largest port
A FORMER Cairns woman will likely maintain a high-level Australian Federal Police security clearance to work in Queensland's largest port after a judge did not record a conviction against her for stealing more than $16,000.
Nicola Leigh Kelbie, who also uses the surname Eccles, was working for short-loan company AMX in Cairns in early 2001 when she created 28 false loans and pocketed $16,690.
Since then, the 39-year-old has landed an upper-management job with the National Safety Council of Australia in Gladstone, where she gained AFP and Maritime Safety clearance to work in the city’s port.
That clearance was put in jeopardy yesterday when she pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud in Cairns District Court, but her defence team successfully argued for a conviction not to be recorded so she could keep her job.
The court was given no explanation for Kelbie’s offending more than a decade ago, with defence barrister Craig Chowdhury telling Judge Brian Harrison that question was “difficult to answer”.
“Before 2001, my client led a blameless life. Since 2002, she has led an exemplary life,” Mr Chowdhury said.
The case was slated for trial yesterday, but after negotiations between the Department of Public Prosecutions and Kelbie’s defence team a guilty plea was entered.
Judge Harrison said it was a unique case in which he could use his discretion not to record a conviction, because one would see her security clearance revoked. Kelbie will be on probation for two years, and has to pay restitution to the company in that period.
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