16 April 2019

Scam and Disability

In R v Latemore [2019] QCA 55 Sofronoff P has considered scamming by a Qld police officer -
The applicant had a normal and reasonably happy upbringing. His parents brought him up well and decently. He also did well enough at school but decided to leave school at grade 9. He went to work at an aquarium business and later bought it from his employer. He sold it and then worked in different positions. He married at 19 but that marriage ended after three years. In his mid-twenties he applied to join and was accepted by the Queensland Police Force. By then he had completed grade 12 schooling by correspondence and had begun to study for a Business Diploma and a Justice Administration Diploma. He succeeded in earning these diplomas and was sworn in as a constable in 1996. 
[2] He married again in 1997. There was a child of the marriage. He was an honest and reliable Queensland policeman for 10 years. He was promoted to senior constable in 2003. Between 2005 and 2009 he was often appointed an acting Sergeant. 
[3] From late 2008 the applicant began to act in a way that was abnormal for him, judged by his past life and what it showed about his character. Indeed, his behaviour was bizarre. For reasons that will become clear, it is desirable to relate the applicants total offending, including the State offences to which he pleaded guilty and for which Judge Robertson sentenced him in January 2016. I will later identify the Commonwealth offences for which he was sentenced separately by Judge Long three years afterwards, in February 2019, and which are the subject of this application. 
[4] In August 2008 the applicant bought an expensive watch on eBay, an “Omega Seamaster James Bond 007 Limited edition”. It cost him $3,812.94. He paid for the watch using PayPal, which furnishes certain guarantees of completion. After he received the watch, he falsely claimed that he had never received it. During 2009, he persisted in this claim and even reported to police that the watch had been stolen in transit. He obtained a refund of the purchase price and a refund of import duty. 
[5] In May 2005 the applicant had obtained an ABN and had registered for GST as a sole trader. Why he did this at that time has not been explained. However, in the same month in which he fraudulently obtained his “James Bond” watch, August 2008, he notified the ATO that he elected to report GST on a quarterly basis and then, in October 2008, submitted a claim to the ATO for a refund of GST in the sum of $3,341. His BAS recited sales and purchases that he claimed he had made but, in fact, there was no business, and there had been no sales and no purchases. The ATO paid the money into his nominated bank account. This was count 1. 
[6] In June 2010 he tried to defraud the P and C Association of his daughter’s primary school of $1,000 worth of chairs. He was then President of the P and C Committee. 
[7] In late 2010 he bought an iPad at Myer for $879. He left the store and then returned and claimed that the box was empty when he opened it. He was given a replacement iPad. 
[8] In early 2011 he tried to steal some water spraying equipment from Bunnings and made ludicrous attempts to talk his way out of trouble when confronted, including the use of barely plausible forged receipts. 
[9] He repeated his BAS fraud in March 2011 claiming $7,857, in July 2011 claiming $9,090, and in September 2011 claiming $8,811 and, once more, the ATO paid him the sums he claimed. These were counts 3, 4 and 5. 
[10] On 10 December 2011 he repeated his eBay trick, this time by ordering and paying for a laptop. After he received the computer, he claimed he had not received it. When he got the replacement, he falsely claimed that he had returned it, and asked for and obtained a refund of the purchase price. In the case of the laptop that he had bought, he then additionally claimed to the vendor that he had returned the replacement that had been sent to him and tried to get a full refund while keeping the two laptops. In the same month he was able to shoplift about $3,000 worth of goods from David Jones while leaving a brilliantly lit trail leading directly to himself. 
[11] Two days after he bought the laptop, on 12 December 2011, the applicant lodged a BAS falsely declaring sales of $225,000, purchases of just under $10 million and claiming a GST refund of $879,253. This became count 6. In support of the claim, the applicant faxed the ATO a forged “Bill of Sale” evidencing the purchase of a yacht for $8,997,073. This became count 7. In the following days, in response to ATO phone inquiries, the applicant told a set of easily detectable lies to cover his tracks. 
[12] On 10 January 2012 the applicant lodged a further BAS, this time claiming a refund of $83,519. The money was not paid because the whole file was then under internal investigation. The applicant made repeated calls to the ATO chasing payment. This was count 8. 
[13] The ATO arranged to interview the applicant. On 17 February 2012, four days before the scheduled interview, the applicant called the ATO and said that he needed to amend some BAS statements (counts 3, 4 and 5) because “the contracts won’t be going ahead”. He had been paid the money and was told how to reverse the position, but never did so. During the subsequent interview, the applicant said that the first submitted BAS, count 1, related to the purchase of a Mazda for resale. Records that were easily accessible, and which the ATO accessed, showed that the car had been registered in his wife’s name, it was the car she always used, it had been insured as a private vehicle and, in any case, his wife had disposed of it in November 2011. During the same interview he falsely said that the BAS lodged in January related to the purchase of Mercedes Benz cars for resale. He falsely said that he was in the used car business. He provided forged documents to support that story. The furnishing of these documents became counts 9 and 10. 
[14] In March 2012 the applicant lodged another fraudulent BAS claiming a $15,940 refund. This sum was paid. This was count 12. In response to further inquiries, he later furnished the ATO with forgeries to support this claim. This was count 13. 
[15] In February and March 2012, having applied for and received an American Express card, he used it to buy almost $9,000 worth of property and then falsely claimed that he had never received or used the card. 
[16] In June 2012 the applicant lodged his last fraudulent BAS. The ATO paid him $93,257.50. 
[17] In late 2012 he tried to defraud a cabinet maker whom he had retained by pretending that he had paid $5,000 that he had not paid. He created false paperwork to support his story. 
[18] In early 2014 he repeated his earlier fraudulent method to get another expensive camera from an online vendor. He then sold the camera to somebody but sent the buyer a box containing cheap crockery instead.
The Court notes -
19] The oddity of this offending was largely explained by the applicant’s deteriorating mental health. In 1999, after being diagnosed with a tumour on his pituitary gland and after suffering a laceration to his arm, he was referred to a doctor to establish whether he was fit to continue as a police officer. He was found to be fit. In 2000 he consulted a psychiatrist because of stresses caused by workplace bullying. He was diagnosed with “Obsessional Personality Traits” and with a pre-disposition to depression. He was injured in a traffic accident in 2003 after which he began to suffer migraine headaches. In 2006, and again in 2007, he suffered a needle stick injury. Undoubtedly, those injuries must have resulted in acute anxiety about their possible effects. He required surgery for an injury in 2006. In October 2007 a psychiatrist diagnosed him as suffering from an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressive symptoms and another psychiatrist who saw the applicant a little later related this condition to the injuries he had suffered. The applicant made a claim for workers’ compensation. Undoubtedly his mental state had existed for some time before the actual diagnoses. 
[20] In January 2008, while in this mental state, the applicant was called upon to resuscitate an elderly woman but those efforts were unsuccessful. In the next month he was headbutted and, as a result, his jaw was dislocated and some of his teeth were broken. He was dealing with continuing workplace bullying and his expected promotion to Sergeant did not come. In November 2009 he collapsed at work and in June 2010 he collapsed at home. By no later than 2010 the applicant was seriously ill. He was suffering from major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and continuing migraine attacks. He was self-medicating with alcohol. Over the next two years he was admitted to hospital several times and tried to kill himself repeatedly. 
[21] In February 2010 he came under the care of a psychiatrist who negligently misdiagnosed his condition and then prescribed a set of wholly unsuitable medications. These drugs taken in combination were capable of producing, and did produce, periods of delirium and intermittent impairment of his cognition. They would make him liable to great impulsivity. They would cause anxiety, irritability and mood swings from depression to manic grandiosity, confusion and impairment of the ability to understand the moral nature of his actions. The errors were later discovered and correct medicines were prescribed. 
[22] On 3 December 2010 the applicant was discharged from the Police Force on medical grounds. 
[23] In the middle of 2011 his wife left him taking their child. The divorce was acrimonious. It involved his wife’s obtaining a restraining order against him and it also led to the Family Court holding the applicant in contempt and jailing him although, it seems, that decision was later set aside.