The details have emerged from two separate legal cases – a criminal case against Ms Abellanoza before the Downing Centre Local Court and a civil case in which the cruise company tried to recover the missing millions from the couple in the NSW Supreme Court.
In the Supreme Court, Justice John Sackar ruled it could not pursue the accused’s husband, Perven Abellanoza, for the $811,565 he allegedly received because he did not know the money had been misappropriated.
Justice Sackar accepted Mr Abellanoza’s version of events: that he believed his wife’s newfound wealth was “pure luck” after she developed a seven-days-a-week gambling habit.
“I am satisfied the second defendant trusted his wife, and his wife was demonstrating to him that she was indeed lucky, confirming his belief,” Justice Sackar wrote in his decision.
“There is no evidence [by Silversea Cruises] before me to indicate that his wife could not have won those amounts without spending vast amounts of money … no information as to the odds expected of certain poker machines.”
Mr Abellanoza, who worked in refrigeration, is not facing any criminal charges. He told the court his wife had full control of the household finances, he was “hopeless with technology” and did “not know how to use an ATM”.
He was never allowed to gamble beside his wife because that was “bad luck”.
Mr Abellanoza alleged that, had he discovered money he received was dishonestly obtained, he would have put a stop to it or “divorced his wife immediately”.
Justice Sackar had “serious misgivings” about Mr Abellanoza’s evidence.
“He tried far too hard to project the image of a hapless male,” Justice Sackar noted, but found “he could also have been upset, nervous and ashamed of what had occurred before he discovered it”.
The couple, who have two children, migrated from the Philippines and returned there up to 10 times since 2014, the court heard.
Their travel itinerary also included Surfers Paradise, Cairns, Darwin, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Singapore, Fiji, Taiwan, Brisbane and Melbourne.
But the judge found there was no evidence the couple lived an extravagant lifestyle. Nor had it been proven Mr Abellanoza knew the “extensive” travel they enjoyed might have been bankrolled with ill-gotten gains.
Ms Abellanoza did not file a defence and Justice Sackar found the evidence against her was “unchallenged and credible”.
The company could pursue whatever means appropriate to recover from her the $3.5 million allegedly taken.
But Silversea could only try to recoup $1829 from Mr Abellanoza – the money remaining in two bank accounts jointly held by the couple.
The company is appealing against the judgment, arguing that Mr Abellanoza had “wilfully shut his eyes to the obvious” or “recklessly failed to make such inquiries as an honest and reasonable person”.
Silversea Cruises has 11 boats in its fleet, with prices from $136,000 a person for a 140-day “world cruise” next year.
The court heard that, from 2014, while she was branch accounting supervisor, Ms Abellanoza transferred $3.56 million into seven bank accounts under her control and used a downloadable generator to create fake invoices.
Ms Abellanoza fell under suspicion in February 2018, when she told a senior executive she had fallen victim to an online scam and offered to reimburse the company.
Vice-president of corporate accounting, Jose Santos, told the Supreme Court he thought the offer unusual because Ms Abellanoza was not at fault.
Mr Santos was informed by another employee that Ms Abellanoza was seen “placing large quantities of hard copy documents in the shredding bin” in the days before she resigned in April 2018.
An investigation by a forensic accountant uncovered the alleged discrepancies, an expert telling the court that the size and frequency of the transactions was “indicative of a deliberate and calculated fraud”.
The day after Silversea served Ms Abellanoza with a court summons, her husband was seen carrying two large cardboard boxes from his house and delivering them to a relative, before withdrawing $20,000 from his bank account.
Mr Abellanoza told the court the boxes contained clothes because he decided to move out when he discovered the allegations against his wife. The money was to pay her legal fees, he said.
The criminal case against Ms Abellanoza will return to Downing Centre Local Court on May 23.
Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.