A woman accused of stealing almost $163,000 from her boss was kept on staff after he uncovered the thefts but threatened to "ruin his reputation" when he suggested she sell her home to help repay it, a Perth court has heard.
Chaynika Sethi has gone on trial in the District Court of WA, charged with 98 counts of stealing as a servant.
Prosecutors say the mother-of-two was a trusted practice manager at a physiotherapy clinic for 10 years but plundered a company bank account over a 21-month period.
Business owner Arran McDiven told the court Sethi became visibly upset, shaking and crying, when he questioned her about an unusual payment, confessing she'd taken between $10,000 and $20,000.
He said it came as a big blow as he felt she was "the heart of the team".
"I felt very disappointed," Mr McDiven said.
Sethi explained she was under financial stress after her husband's business failed and agreed to pay the money back, surrendering her passport - and her family's - so she couldn't abscond still owing.
After he asked her to bring in five years of bank statements, she estimated about $142,000 had been stolen, Mr McDiven said.
He had been battling with his own financial troubles, which forced him to sell a newly-built house, move into a rental property and shift his children from private to public school.
Over the next few weeks, Mr McDiven sent multiple texts to Sethi seeking reassurances that money was on its way from India, where her father sent more than $90,000 in instalments.
Sethi sought a loan against the equity in her home to help pay off the remainder but was unsuccessful.
When Mr McDiven suggested she sell the property, "she took that badly".
The part-time fashion designer became upset and accused him of harassing her, threatening to ruin his reputation, so he fired her.
Defence counsel Sean O'Sullivan told the jury they would hear "the way things were", saying fear made people do things they wouldn't otherwise do.
The trial is set down for five days.
Australian Associated Press