Accountant Scott Fleay jailed for stealing more than $4.6 million from WA chicken farmers

An accountant and former councillor for one of Perth’s most exclusive suburbs has been sentenced to six years in jail for stealing more than $4.6 million from a wealthy chicken famer who had entrusted him to look after his financial affairs.

Scott Francis Fleay, 53, was found guilty by a District Court jury of channelling more than $4.6 million from the bank accounts of Ghassan Jabado, known as Gus, and his wife Maria to subsidise his upmarket lifestyle.

That included the purchase of multi-million dollar properties in the wealthy Perth suburbs of Cottesloe and Peppermint Grove, where Fleay was a shire councillor for nine years.

He became the Jabados’ accountant after they sold their Forrestdale chicken farm for $28 million in 2006.

They established the farm after coming to Australia as immigrants in 1969, but after the sale Mrs Jabado fell ill, and Fleay was given an enduring power of attorney over their affairs — which gave him access to their bank accounts.

Gus Jabado says he trusted Fleay to take care of his finances because he had difficulty with numbers.(ABC News: Joanna Menagh)

Over three years, he then transferred funds into accounts he controlled.

The District Court was told Fleay had repaid all the stolen money well before any charges were laid, plus an extra million dollars that he had mistakenly transferred to Mr Jabado after his wife’s death in 2010.

The money was meant to go to Mrs Jabado’s estate but instead ended up with Mr Jabado, who then realised what Fleay was doing.

Accountant claimed case was vendetta

At his trial, Fleay maintained the funds he received from the Jabados were gifts, loans and payments for work he had done for them.

He also claimed the whole court case was a vendetta by Mr Jabado, because he was angry Fleay had gone behind his back and helped his wife, before her death, give money to her family, whom Mr Jabado hated.

An exterior shot of the District Court of WA in Perth.
A District Court jury found Fleay guilty in October.(ABC News: David Weber)

Fleay said after the allegations surfaced, Mr Jabado became threatening and frightening to his family, demanding that Fleay visit him and write confession notes, whilst repeatedly reminding him he had a gun.

Anonymous packages detailing the allegations were also sent to Fleay’s new employers, Peppermint Grove Shire Council and his wife’s workplace.

Victim’s ‘nightmare’ after entrusting finances

Mr Jabado attended Fleay’s sentencing hearing and outside the court he denied responsibility for the packages, describing the case as “a nightmare”.

He also dismissed the description of him by Fleay’s lawyer as a “loud, dominating and intimidating character”.

“The big judge upstairs, he knows who I am, I don’t have to prove myself to anybody,” Mr Jabado told reporters.

“People can say what they like about me, it don’t bother me at all, because I’m a man.

Mr Jabado said he had relied on Fleay to look after his finances “because of my difficulty, especially to read and write numbers”.

“I’m a poultry farmer and before [I was] a poultry farmer, I was a heavy machine operator, so I don’t know nothing about statements and all this nonsense,” he said.

Fleay ‘utterly abused’ trust: judge

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Mara Barone said Fleay had “utterly abused” the trust of the Jabados.

Judge Barone said although Fleay had repaid more than $1 million in excess of the stolen funds, she was not convinced he paid it out of remorse — but rather to avoid getting caught.

The money Fleay stole enabled him to live an expensive life he would have otherwise not been able to afford, Judge Barone added.

She noted the “sense of shame” the trial and subsequent conviction had caused for Fleay’s wife and two daughters, but said that was entirely at his hands.

“It is your fault if there is an impact on them,” Judge Barone said.

As Fleay was escorted from the courtroom, he mouthed to his wife that he loved her.

He will be eligible for parole after four years.

Source link

Accountant Scott Fleay tells court the millions he received from wealthy couple were gifts or loans

A trusted Perth accountant accused of stealing millions from one of his “fabulously wealthy” clients to subsidise his upmarket lifestyle has testified the money was either loaned to him to buy property or given to him as a gift.

Scott Fleay, 52, was giving evidence to the WA District Court where he has been on trial for the past week on 25 charges of stealing more than $4 million from immigrants Ghassan ‘Gus’ Jabado and his late wife Maria.

The court has heard Mr Fleay, a former Peppermint Grove shire councillor, was the couple’s accountant when in 2006 they sold the chicken farm they had run for 31 years for $28 million.

Mr Jabado was originally from Lebanon while his wife was Italian, and the court was told the couple relied on advice from their accountants because neither could not write English very well nor understand complex legal documents.

It is alleged that over the next five years, after being given enduring power of attorney over the Jabado’s finances, Fleay channelled money from their accounts into bank accounts controlled by him, and used the funds for his own purposes.

That included helping Mr Fleay and his family buy two multi-million dollar properties in Perth’s upmarket western suburbs and an $80,000 car.

Gus Jabado and his wife established a chicken farm after arriving in Australia in 1969.(ABC News: Cy Millington )

In his evidence on Friday, Mr Fleay testified that while his relationship with the Jabados had started out as professional, over the years it “blurred” into what he described as one that was “more personal in nature”.

He said Mr Jabado would call him “my boy” and seek advice from him about business deals and property.

“I guess I was like his personal assistant and he involved me in more and more of his dealings,” he said.

‘Not the smartest thing I’ve done’

Mr Fleay said he would receive “gifts” from the Jabados of up to $20,000 and estimated that between 2005 and 2010 he received $200,000 to $300,000.

At the time, he was earning about $300,000 a year from his accountancy job.

Mr Fleay said it “did not strike him as a concern” as it was happening, but in hindsight, he described it as “probably not the best thing to do”.

“It was probably not the smartest thing I’ve done,” he told the court.

WA District Court
The District Court was told the Jabados were born overseas and could not write English very well.(ABC News: David Weber)

Mr Fleay also detailed two $2 million “loans” he received from the Jabados to help buy two western suburbs properties — one in Peppermint Grove in 2007 and one in Cottelsoe in 2008.

He said the first loan happened after he told Mr Jabado he was going to get a bridging loan from the bank.

He testifed Mr Jabado said to him, “Why do you want to do that? The banks are a bunch of c**ts”, before saying “My boy, we have the money, we can lend it to you and we’re not out of pocket”.

Mr Fleay said he initially refused, but Mr Jabado became agitated and said, “Isn’t our money good enough for you?”

They then discussed the loan having an interest rate of 6 per cent, before they drew up an “acknowledgement of debt” document, which Mr Fleay said was kept by Mr Jabado.

He said the second “loan” in 2008 to buy the property in Cottesloe was added to the document, despite Mr Jabado telling him he did not like the suburb and could not understand why he wanted to live there.

The charges against Mr Fleay include allegations he stole sums of money from the Jabados that were meant to be donated to charities, including Telethon and Sliver Chain, however in his evidence he denied ever doing that.

The court has heard the accusations first surfaced in late 2010, which the defence says is when Mr Jaabado found out — after his wife’s death — that Mr Fleay had been helping her access money from her account.

‘He ripped up and ate’ the evidence

Mr Fleay testified that Mrs Jabado asked him to help her give money to her nephew, despite her husband “absolutely loathing” her family.

He said he would transfer funds from Mrs Jabado’s account to his own account, and then withdraw it and give her the cash in an envelope when her husband was not around.

He told the court that each time she would sign and date a document he had drawn up stating, “I Maria Jabado have requested Scott Fleay to take money for me without the knowledge of Gus Jabado”.

However Mr Fleay said could not now produce that document as evidence.

When asked why, he said it was because Mr Jabado had “eaten” it.

He said when he went to see Mr Jabado on Boxing Day 2010, he tried to produce the document but Mr Jabado accused him of fraud, saying his wife would never have done that.

“He took it, ripped it up and ate it,” he said.

Mr Fleay said during the meeting Mr Jabado’s voice was extremely loud and he described himself as being “scared and frightened”.

man in dark glasses with dark curly hair wearing striped shirt and jacket walks along street
Defence lawyer Simon Freitag SC says the accusations against his client are a form of “payback”.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

He denies doing anything illegal, with his lawyer Simon Freitag SC claiming the court case was “payback” for his client “betraying” Mr Jabado by going behind his back.

Mr Freitag described the Jabados as “fabulously wealthy” and Mr Fleay as also “well off”, but he maintained there was “no fraudulent intent” by his client in what he did.

The court has heard Mr Fleay has repaid all the money to Mr Jabado plus interest.

Source link

Queensland ‘money mule’ accountant charged with money laundering over alleged $3.3m email hacking scam

A Brisbane accountant has been charged with multiple money laundering offences over her alleged involvement in a “relentless” email scam worth more than $3 million.

The 65-year-old Carina woman has been accused of being a “money mule” for hackers who had fraudulently gained access to the email accounts of businesses.

Police have alleged hackers sent fake or falsified invoices to businesses who then sent cash to the woman.

It’s alleged the woman’s job was to funnel the money that was paid to her by the businesses and send it overseas.

A joint investigation between Queensland police and the Australian Federal Police uncovered at least seven victims had unwittingly transferred $3.3 million to more than 50 accounts linked to the woman over the last 12 months.

Detective Inspector Vince Byrnes said the woman’s alleged role was “vital” to helping the hackers.

“The alleged offending in this case is very concerning, it’s relentless in nature and has a very poor effect on our community and our economy,” he said.

Email compromise team investigator Detective Senior Constable Adrian Holt said one victim alone had been scammed more than $1 million.

“They range from large-scale business that pay bills to that value right down to small business, aged care, self-funded superannuation funds,” he said.

The woman was arrested yesterday after her home was raided by the state’s Financial and Cyber Crime Group.

Detectives seized computers and phones and she was charged with several offences involving dealing in the proceeds of crime.

She is expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on October 16.

Detective Inspector Byrnes said it was important for the community to be aware of scams and for people to safeguard their email accounts.

“Businesses of any size can be targeted so it’s important to regularly review processes,” he said.

“To reduce victimisation in our community, examine those invoices, check the bank account details … verify independently with that vendor.

“It’s important we protect our community by being vigilant ourselves.”

Source link

Former accountant awarded almost $500k compensation for injuries suffered while driving home from work

A Queensland woman has won nearly half a million dollars in damages after a car accident in Canberra seven years ago, which she says ended her career.

The woman suffered whiplash after a crash with another car on the way home from work in 2013.

She told the ACT Supreme Court the headaches and restricted movement afterwards meant she could only work part time in her job as an accountant.

She said prior to the accident she had aspired to become a partner at a major firm.

The court heard she had tried to work part time in several accounting jobs in Canberra before her family went travelling in a caravan and eventually settled in Queensland.

The woman now works as a deckhand on a ferry, which she said did not aggravate her injuries despite the heavy physical labour.

Video of woman pruning did not discredit injuries

Initially the woman had sought more than $1 million in compensation for lost earnings, superannuation and costs.

But insurer NRMA questioned the extent of her incapacity, including collecting surveillance of her pruning her garden.

Her lawyers had claimed she was no longer able to prune higher than waist height due to pain and discomfort.

But Acting Justice Robert Crowe said he did not place any weight on the surveillance evidence.

“It showed pruning activity which was fairly innocuous given the plaintiff’s evidence-in-chief, and which lasted only a short time.”

But he said he was sceptical of some of the woman’s evidence.

“It seemed to me that, perhaps due to some extent to her involvement in the litigation, the plaintiff had become overly focussed on her symptoms.

“She did tend to blame whatever symptoms she had from time to time (for example, blocked ears) on the motor vehicle accident,” Justice Crowe said.

But Acting Justice Crowe found despite his reservations, the woman was a reliable witness, who responded appropriately to a long and rigorous cross examination.

“Suffice to say that I am not persuaded that the plaintiff was deliberately lying or fabricating as urged by the defendants,” he said.

The woman was awarded $493,000 for damages, past and future lost earning capacity and superannuation.

Source link