A $1.4 million fraud of an organisation that helps Indigenous Australians has been described as a “gross breach of trust”, which stripped money away from a disadvantaged section of the community, the Canberra Times has reported.
Former Indigenous Business Australia finance systems manager Nicholas Schofield, 46, used the stolen money to bankroll a lavish lifestyle, buying an Aston Martin, jewellery, designer clothing, and an expensive wedding.
He sent some of the funds offshore, bought a Mini Cooper, and even purchased a $10,000 custom doll house.
Schofield used his senior position within Indigenous Business Australia – which organises business and home loans for Indigenous Australians to foster economic independence – to avoid checks and balances preventing fraud.
He copied previous loan transfers, but changed their details to funnel the money to himself, before using his seniority and experience to cover his tracks.
The IBA identified the fraud and started an internal investigation in August 2014.
Schofield, represented by barrister Jason Moffett, appeared in the ACT Supreme Court for sentencing on eight fraud charges last Thursday, April 7.
Commonwealth prosecutor Katrina Musgrove said the crimes were motivated by “greed not need”, pointing to Schofield’s large $113,563 salary and the way he spent the stolen money.
“It was a gross breach of trust. He was in a management position,” Ms Musgrove said.
Ms Musgrove said the stolen money had accounted for 3 per cent of the total funds allocated to Indigenous Business Australia.
“I submit that that’s a large amount of money in a small organisation that’s set up to actually assist Indigenous Australians.
Schofield has been in custody for five months.
Mr Moffett said his client had cooperated with authorities, and entered an early plea, which entitled him to a reduction in sentence.
He said his client had very strong prospects for rehabilitation, but would no longer be able to work in finance jobs.
Schofield planned to live with his sister in Tasmania once he was released from jail.
Justice John Burns will hand down his sentence in early May.
The Canberra Times