A BALLARAT accountant stole more than $56,000 from almost a dozen clients to feed his gambling addiction, a court has heard.
Neil Francis Toohey, 48, was supported by a large group of family members in Ballarat Magistrates Court yesterday, including his wife who left him during his offending last year.
He pleaded guilty to 23 charges including four counts of theft and six counts of obtaining property by deception.
According to prosecution summary obtained by The Courier, Toohey was working for a Ballarat accounting firm during 2010 and 2011, when he used the business as a conduit to falsify documents and alter client cheques.
On several occasions Toohey sent clients false figures about how much tax they owed the Australian Tax Office.
When the client paid that amount, Toohey would submit the correct amount of tax to the ATO and keep the difference. In total he stole $56,041.27.
In a victim impact statement tendered to the court, Toohey’s former employer, who The Courier has elected not to name, said the offences had sent her business backwards.
“I think it made it a lot worse that he had been in such a position of responsibility and trust within the firm after over six years of service,” she wrote.
“I feel that he deliberately bided his time, gained my trust, allowed me to believe he was loyal so that he could gain nearly autonomous access to my top clients and then committed the crimes.”
Toohey’s biggest victim was a Ballarat electronics store, from who he stole $30,000 by requesting a cheque to pay tax they didn’t owe.
“Having destroyed your reputation and all that you’ve worked hard for, it’s noticeable that there’s absolutely no winners out of this,” magistrate Terry Wilson said.
“Gambling: it’s insidious and it’s always based upon this notion that the next time I go I’m going to win and I can pay it all back.
“A gambling addiction is like an alcohol addiction or drug addiction, it’s an illness,” Mr Wilson said.
“It’s important to recognise this man came clean and has hopefully removed the prospect of ever offending again.”
After much deliberation, Mr Wilson sentenced Toohey to a 12 month community corrections order including 300 hours of unpaid community work.