Woman acquitted

A TRARALGON woman charged with stealing property from two welfare agencies between 2008 and 2010 was acquitted by a Latrobe Valley magistrate on Tuesday.

At the sentencing of 43 year-old Rina Cicchitti, a former welfare officer with the Salvation Army, Magistrate Louis Hill said she had fully cooperated with the investigation, and the defence counsel had argued she was of good character.

“I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did dishonestly appropriate the property she is charged with stealing with the intention of permanently depriving her employers of it,” Mr Hill said.

The magistrate said he was also not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Ms Cicchitti did not believe that she would have the consent of the employers if they knew of the appropriation and the circumstances.

“I find the accused not guilty of all charges,” Mr Hill said.

In delivering his verdict, the magistrate said Ms Cicchitti had undergone “little training” during her time with the welfare agencies and had moved goods in the presence of volunteers.

“In so finding I accept that her explanations contain anomalies, that her squirrel-like behaviour is unusual and could give rise to suspicion and that in spite of some training and experience in administration and management she was unprofessional in the manner in which she discharged what she understood to be her responsibilities,” Mr Hill said.

Ms Cicchitti wept as the magistrate read out the verdict.

She faced several charges pertaining to allegedly taking household furniture and property belonging to the Salvation Army and subsequent employer St Vincent de Paul society, which included items for bushfire-affected families, and storing them in two sheds for her own use.