Sunday, May 31, 2015

Accountant jailed for 'plundering' $1.6 million from elderly dementia sufferer

Mary Taylor Eva
An accountant has been sentenced to more than seven years in jail for "plundering" the estate of an 88-year-old West Australian woman with dementia, during an extended period of criminality in which he stole more than $1.6 million.

Robert Charles Atherley was Mary Taylor Eva's accountant, the executor of her estate, her legal guardian, and had power of attorney over her affairs.

Ms Eva, who died in 2006, lived in the small Wheatbelt town of Pingelly, about 160 kilometres south-east of Perth.

Atherley, 66, had pleaded not guilty to stealing $1.3 million from Ms Eva's account between February 2002 and August 2006, and more than $312,000 between August 2006 and July 2010.

He also denied giving false testimony in the Supreme Court regarding accounting and financial planning work he did not perform for Ms Eva.

Judge Simon Stone found him guilty on all counts and today said the offending was only discovered because the beneficiaries of her will alerted authorities.

"She was a particularly vulnerable victim," Judge Stone said.

Robert Atherley
Robert Atherley

He said the offending "constituted a gross abuse of trust".

"Ms Eva was vulnerable at the time because she relied on you for professional advice, she had health issues and later suffered from dementia," Judge Stone said.

"The beneficiaries [of the estate] were vulnerable in that they were not aware you were plundering from the estate."

He said Atherley "systematically" stole the money over a long period of time, and there were 165 separate transactions involved in the theft of the first count, totalling $1.3 million.

"Your actions were deliberate and, in my view, you were motivated by greed," he said.
Atherley invested all the money into his business, which later failed.

None of the money has been recovered and Judge Stone awarded $1.6 million in compensation to the administrators of Ms Eva's estate.

Atherley's sentence has been backdated to April this year and he will be eligible for parole after five and a half years.

Family disappointed with 'light' sentence

Outside court, Ms Eva's nephew and one of the 21 beneficiaries of her will, Lindsay Eva, said he was disappointed at the sentence.

"We think it's a bit light because of the amount of money involved, the way he did it and the fact he tried to cover up what he had done by committing perjury," Mr Eva said.

He warned other people against falling prey to similar crimes.

"You shouldn't appoint your accountant as your sole executor because there's no check," he said.
Mr Eva welcomed moves by Atherley's legal team to appeal against the sentence.

"I think that would probably would help the situation, as far as we're concerned," he said.

"We feel we've had a longer sentence than what he's getting. The amount of time we've put in personally.

"What we'd really like to know is where our money went to, we don't entirely believe what he said."

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Accountant jailed for 'plundering' $1.6 million from elderly dementia sufferer

1 comment:

StandUp said...

Anyone who is proven to have exploited a person with dementia should get a much tougher sentence every time.