Elisha Cuffe was a ten year valued employee, promoted to the position of senior purser. The position as purser gave her the opportunity to line her purse, with $400,000.
She was removed from the Sapphire Princess after the $400,000 was found in her cabin, and she appeared in the Ketchikan Alaska court on August 12, 2006 to answer to the charges.
The trusted Australian citizen had access to more than $1.5 million in cash according to the complalint. She violated that trust, as alleged in the charge, by stealing $400,000 in U.S. cash, $40 in Canadian cash, $4,660 in U.S. travelers checks, and $9,700 in credit card payment slips.
She took the money from the ship's safe, and stored it in a cardboard box in her cabin.
Senior ship's crew seeing that the books didn't add up, began an investigation into where the funds had gone. By August mid August they had concluded their investigation, and the purser was arrested onboard and held for a day, before the ship pulled into port.
When arrested, her passport was seized, and given to U. S. Customs. FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said authorities are also considering federal charges of transferring stolen money through international waters.
According to what the purser said, over the course of several weeks beginning in late May, she noticed the ship's computer records were not showing the correct totals of the cash that was actually on hand. She took the extra money out of the safe to her cabin, stored it in a cardboard box, and placed it near the foot of her bed.
UPDATE: October 09, 2006
Under the plea deal Cuffe's lawyers negotiated with prosecutors, she agreed to plead guilty, at a reduced charge, which resulted in a four month prison term. She also agreed to be deported from the US at the end of her four-month jail stint.
Cuffe was facing a maximum jail term of five years for the reduced charge, and ten years for the original charge.
UPDATE: November 3, 2006
Cuffe has been deported back to Australia, after serviing her time in jail. She had been given credit for some time served before the conviction was handed down, and the balanced served after her conviction.
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