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 Fleay transferred money from Gus and Maria Jabado’s accounts
- He had been employed as an accountant for the chicken farmers
- Judge Mara Barone said Fleay had “utterly abused” the Jabados’ trust
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.
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.
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.