Restaurant employee spun complex web of lies to defraud boss out of €80,000, court told

The director of a San Gwann sports club restaurant has told a court how, over the span of a year, an employee of his allegedly pocketed some €80,000 that he had entrusted her with to pay the restaurant’s suppliers

The director of a San Gwann sports club restaurant has told a court how, over the span of a year, an employee of his allegedly pocketed some €80,000 that he had entrusted her with to pay the restaurant’s suppliers, leaving him to face the wrath of his creditors.

The compilation of evidence against 42-year-old Antonia Camilleri from Valletta continued before magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo yesterday. Camilleri is pleading not guilty to several charges related to fraud, dating back to 2017.

The co-owner of the restaurant, Kurt Anastasi,  testified that he would receive Facebook messages from a person that the accused would say was the father of her son, who lived in the UK. It later transpired that the messages originated from a fake profile. 

Anastasi told the court that he had been introduced to Camilleri by a fellow businessman and that she would manage almost every aspect of the business, employing staff, rostering, ordering supplies for the kitchen and day to day management. “We had 15 suppliers, apart from the supermarkets that she would buy food from every day.”

He explained how there was a safe in the restaurant containing the money with which the suppliers were paid. 

“She would tell us that it would be better if we left it to her as otherwise, nobody would know who could handle the money, “ he said.

But the witness noticed something was amiss when one supplier after the other had started to complain to him that he was falling behind in his payments when he had been informed that they were being paid. When he confronted Camilleri about the unpaid invoices, she had said that they had not been received.

Anastasi said that Camilleri subsequently started to make up excuses and claimed not to know where she had left the money or how she had spent it. On one occasion, she claimed to have left it in an envelope in a taxi but couldn’t remember with whom. After this started happening, her boss took back control over the business, he said.

Camilleri had promised to pass on the money, but they never arrived.

The director also told the court that Camilleri would also claim to have a son by a “rich Maltese businessman who lived in England,” to whom she would send the money.

Anastasi’s problems got worse when some suppliers started filing garnishees against him, he said.

The victim testified that the woman had tried to win back his trust by going to a notary to hypothecate a property of hers as security, adding that she had claimed to own a €1.2 million property at Portomaso and was expecting to inherit another property in Sliema from an elderly woman.

The story took another turn when Anastasi had travelled to England after being asked to be godfather at Camilleri’s son’s Confirmation. The son never turned up, with the accused claiming that the priest chosen by the child’s father was not available.

He explained that he never got to meet the man or the son.

At a point, Anastasi also started to receive mobile phone messages from a person purporting to be the father of her child, asking him not to take back the money, but in February 2019, he had discovered, however, that the chats were being sent by a young boy.

Fake profile belonging to taxi driver’s son 

Asked how he found out the profile was fake, Anastasi explained that he had run a search on the number and a picture of a 14-year-old boy came up. The accused did not drive and would often leave work using a taxi, the driver of whom Anastasi knew to have a young son.

Having confirmed that he was being lied to, Anastasi had met with the taxi driver and explained the situation. The taxi driver was very concerned and told Anastasi that it wasn’t the first time that Camilleri would ask to use his son’s phone as hers was out of charge or credit. The men found that the accused would use the phone to send messages pretending to be the father of her son, who they discovered, didn't exist.

The case continues next week.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb are defence counsel.

Inspector Kurt Borg is prosecuting, assisted by lawyer Godwin Cini from the Office of the Attorney General.