Guide Dogs ex-manager stole $200,000 from charity for home renovations


A former Guide Dogs manager who robbed the charity of over $200,000 has avoided jail time and was instead given a three-year community correction order.

Sandro Cirianni, the 49-year-old former general manager of Guide Dogs Victoria, stole the money so he could renovate his home and install a pool. He pleaded guilty to all three counts of obtaining advantage by deception.

According to The Age, Cirianni said he was “terribly sorry” and contended that the offending was due to fears of a long-standing heart condition and an attempt to support his family, which the judge dismissed due to the nature of the renovations.

Judge Susan Cohen told the court: “I do not accept…that this was genuinely to provide for your wife and children,” and added that the offending was not “rash or spontaneous” as Cirianni had continued the renovation for a prolonged period.

In all, Cirianni put in 45 false invoices worth $178,413 over more than two years. He also made 117 unauthorised purchases on a corporate credit card valued at $27,680 for personal expenditures. The invoices weren’t questioned by Guide Dogs Victoria at the time because the charity was doing its own building works.

A discrepancy prompted a forensic audit of the 2015 financial year to identify the thefts. Cirianni resigned in March 2016 before the frauds were discovered.

In an interview with Guide Dogs Victoria, Cirianni admitted he had stolen the money discovered in the audit and a further $25,000 not previously found. Cohen said he paid back the amount in full by August 2016 and, while it should not be seen as a way to buy himself out of prison, it showed contrition.

But his offending was a clear breach of trust, not only to his employer but to fellow staff and donors. Cohen said this could undermine community confidence that funds would be used for the purpose donors expect.

Cirianni lawyers said the married father of three has a brain condition, meaning even minor trauma to the head may increase his chances of a brain haemorrhage.

Judge Cohen rejected suggestions that imprisonment would put him at “grave risk” of a head injury but was satisfied he would be particularly worried about it, making the imprisonment more burdensome.

However, she said the community work, supervision and a requirement that he seek mental health treatment where necessary would be an adequate sentence.