Sharon Tracey Nitschke signs deed to repay $250,000 she embezzled from Riverland Vine Improvement Committee.

Woman promises to repay $250,000 stolen from Riverland wine committee

July 11, 2019
By Alana House

A woman who stole more than $250,000 from Riverland Vine Improvement Committee is hoping to avoid jail after signing a deed to repay the cash.

Sharon Tracey Nitschke, 53, appeared in the District Court on Wednesday, where Judge Rauf Soulio was told the mother of three had already repaid a significant amount, including the proceeds from selling her home.

Court documents reveal the alleged offences occurred between December 2014 and December 2017, with the money being used to fund home renovations, holidays and other personal purchases such as jewellery. 

Nitschke carried out hundreds of illegal transactions, stealing $7000 in the first year of her offending and $100,000 in the 12 months prior to being caught.

Sharon Tracey Nitschke signs deed to repay $250,000 she embezzled from Riverland Vine Improvement Committee.

Her acts were described as a “prolonged, brazen and a breach of trust”.

Prosecutors have asked that she be jailed immediately, arguing a custodial sentence is the only appropriate penalty.

But Judge Soulio has postponed Nitschke’s sentencing after receiving a document from her former employer.

After seeing the document, he wanted to know the committee’s view on Nitschke’s sentencing before any decision was made.

“A deed has been entered between Nitschke and the victim of the offending … there has been partial, but significant, restitution (made),” he said.

“There is also an apparent willingness to accept ongoing restitution from her … quite clearly, that deed would be annulled in the event there was immediate imprisonment.

“It’s a matter of some complexity that, having only been provided with the deed this morning, requires more careful consideration.”

Judge Soulio also noted Nitschke had demonstrated contrition and had been raised in “traumatic and dysfunctional circumstances”.

He will sentence her in August. In the meantime, he has ordered a report to determine if Nitschke is suitable for home detention.

The Riverland Vine Improvement Committee’s objectives are to identify clones with high health status and performance; promote and improve knowledge of new varieties; and produce and supply improved vine material to meet the changing requirements of the grape industry.

Riverland Wine once described Nitschke as “a quiet achiever, hard worker and a lot of fun.”

“Sharon Nitschke has been in the wine game for many years, after purchasing a small fruit block with her husband David in the 80s,” it noted.

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