Ben Hills 

Fraudsters are dealt with remarkably leniently by the courts, according to data compiled by the NSW Department of Public Prosecutions. Even in cases involving serious, serial white-collar crime, only 60 per cent go to prison, with the rest being given fines, bonds, or periodic detention. Some recent cases in which the DPP has appealed on the grounds that the sentence was inadequate are: Barbara Giallussi, who owned a nursing home in Roseville, cheated the Commonwealth of $264,000 in bed subsidies over a five-year period up until 1999 by creating a phantom payroll. She was fined $100,000 – to which three years’ periodic detention was added on appeal.

Jennifer Evesald Gentz, a Hammondville Department of Defence clerk, stole $196,000 over 18 months. In 1999, a District Court judge sentenced her to two years’ periodic detention – he said he took into account the fact that after the fraud was discovered, her de facto husband had attacked her and her two daughters with a claw hammer, seriously injuring them. Appeal dismissed.

Tony Giam, a 43-year-old property management company executive, stole $7 million over three years from Sydney’s Market City developers – $1.7 million of that from a bank. The money was never recovered. He was let off with a five-year-bond, but on appeal was sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison.

John Robert Houghton, a 54-year-old investment broker, was discovered to have systematically misappropriated more than $1.3 million from pension funds he managed. In 2000, he was sentenced to 18 months’ jail. Appeal dismissed.

Keith Edgar Pont, 57, was the manager of a pub which was robbed of $20,000. He was given $5000 of this by the thieves, and took advantage of the robbery to steal another $30,000 for himself from the safe. He had prior convictions for dishonesty, but was given three years’ periodic detention. Appeal dismissed.

Edward Joseph Houlton, a solicitor, pleaded guilty to 85 counts of stealing $347,000 from his clients over several years – he used the money to keep his practice going and for his domestic expenses. In mitigation, he told the District Court that he suffered from “an anxiety disorder” and was given three years’ periodic detention and a bond. Appeal dismissed.

Andrew John Smith, another solicitor, misappropriated $3 million of his clients’ money for bogus investment schemes. He had a previous conviction for stealing from his clients in Queensland, for which he was given five years’ jail – a sentence an appeal court judge said was “astonishingly light”. Although only $250,000 of the money had been recovered, the NSW District Court in 2000 sentenced him to a minimum of three years’ jail after hearing that he suffered from a “depressive illness”. The sentence was increased to a minimum of 4 1/2 years on appeal.

Adam Mathew Jackson, 37, a director of a public company, Manpower Services Australia, stole $5.2 million over two years by simply writing out cheques to himself. He used the money to buy a $3 million house in Hunters Hill, a power cruiser and two BMWs. He was sentenced to five years’ jail with a two-year non-parole period – when the DPP appealed against the leniency of the sentence in 2001, the Court of Criminal Appeal increased his minimum sentence to three years.

Patrick Joseph O’Connor, an Irish civil engineer, set up a bodgie building industry employment scheme through which he managed to defraud the Commonwealth of $1.5 million over two years. He was sentenced to three years’ jail, with an 18-month minimum. Appeal dismissed.

Sydney Thomas Finnie, a 62-year-old finance broker, had previous convictions for fraud, was on bail, and had defied a Supreme Court order than he not act as a finance broker when he was arrested on 17 fresh charges of having stolen $600,000 from his clients. He said he was depressed and had prostate cancer. A District Court judge commended him as an “industrious person” who owned one of Australia’s largest car dealerships, before sentencing him to three years’ jail with a non-parole period of 18 months. On this occasion, the Court of Criminal Appeal almost doubled the sentence – to four years and four months, with a minimum of two years and 10 months.

Publishing Info

Pub: Sydney Morning Herald
Pub date: Saturday 6 November 2004
Edition: First
Section: Business
Sub section:
Page: 50
Word count: 703
Classification: Crime/Fraud Law/Courts
Geographic area: NSW QLD