Former NRL WAG and reality TV star Arabella Del Busso has jail sentence slashed for $52k theft

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A former reality TV contestant and controversial ex-WAG said she feels “broken, defeated and helpless” after being threatened multiple times while in jail for stealing $52,000.

Arabella Del Busso appeared close to tears as she appeared in the NSW District Court via audiovisual link on Wednesday wearing a prison-issued green T-shirt and shorts.

She has been in jail for more than two months after she was convicted of two counts of stealing as an employee.

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The boxer was working as a receptionist for Rheumatology Specialist Care at their practices in Kogarah and Randwick when she devised a scheme to steal tens of thousands of dollars.

Between September 2019 and February 2020, the court heard she netted more than $52,000 by telling customers to pay in cash rather than by card.

The ex-girlfriend of former NRL star Josh Reynolds was jailed in February for a maximum of 20 months over the “appalling breach of trust”.

However, Judge John Pickering slashed her jail sentence to just five months on Wednesday after the lingerie model launched an appeal in the NSW District Court.

He took into consideration the fraudster’s mental health conditions and lack of criminal history, finding she was unlikely to reoffend.

The court heard she had been in protective custody for two months, which she described as a “fairly awful experience” involving multiple threats.

In an affidavit to the court, the former reality TV contestant said she had been targeted by other inmates.

“Every day I feel such anxiety and fear about how I will just get through the day,” she wrote.

The court heard Del Busso was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after she stole from her employer, but Judge Pickering found it was not a cause of her offending.

He accepted Del Busso feared for her physical and mental wellbeing in custody, but noted she is a boxer who might have been expected to fare better than other inmates.

“I am conscious every day in jail is difficult, as I’m sure it has been for the appellant. But she put herself in that position,” he said.

Del Busso’s lawyer Jehane Ghabrial argued her client had also been subjected to additional punishment because of media coverage of her theft, which she characterised as “brutal to say the least”.

She said the media had been “trawling through (Del Busso’s) personal life” and “dredging up” past embarrassments which had subjected the model to “further humiliation and denigration”.

Previous articles noted Del Busso publicly admitted on a reality TV show that she had faked a miscarriage when she was in a relationship with Mr Reynolds.

“Just because someone applies to be part of a television show … doesn’t mean they’re inviting everyone to tear every aspect of their lives apart,” Ms Ghabrial said.

However, Judge Pickering pointed out Del Busso had actively sought media attention after her high-profile break up with former NRL star Josh Reynolds.

“Being real about it though, she’s pursued it as well,” he said.

“She put herself on a reality program, she’s put herself on national television … no one forced her to go on SAS (Australia).”

The judge noted SAS Australia appears to attract “people like her” who have “had their issues with criminal courts”.

He highlighted the case of Bruce Lehrmann, who has consistently denied sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins, as demonstrating the additional scrutiny invited by a public profile.

“The reality is that these are dishonesty offences and there are aspects of (Del Busso’s) prior history that involve dishonesty so there is a linkage in some respects,” Judge Pickering said.

On multiple occasions, the court heard the model told clients the card machine at the medical centre wasn’t working and asked them to pay in cash instead.

“Unfortunately our EFTPOS facilities are down so it will be a cash transaction today of $170 sorry for the inconvenience,” she said in a text message sent out to 18 patients.

Del Busso fleeced $35,785 from the medical centre’s Kogarah facility and $16,565 from the Randwick office over five months before a manager noticed the financial discrepancies.

The court documents show the lingerie model had deposited $18,215 into her personal accounts.

Judge Pickering slammed her “brazen approach” to stealing money and the “pretty basic fraud which was easily detected in time”.

He determined there was “little doubt” she stole the $52,000 “purely for her own financial gain”.

“There can be no excuse for simply stealing money from a small business, irrespective of any financial position that anyone gets themselves into,” he said.

The court heard the model has borrowed money to pay back the funds she embezzled from her former employer.

She will be released from jail in July without any parole.

The court heard she will likely return to Victoria to live with her boyfriend and pursue her boxing career.