ACT News

Alcohol promoter allegedly defrauded employer of $147,000 using fake work with Canberra nightclubs and bars

An alcohol promoter allegedly faked work with Canberra's nightclubs, bottle shops and bars to fraudulently make $147,000 of personal purchases on her corporate credit card.

Jacqueline Louise McGowan, 40, was the ACT and regional manager with alcohol promotion and distribution company Bacardi Lion from 2008 to 2011, when she allegedly started spending big on the company's MasterCard. 

The corporate card was allegedly used for everything from bathroom renovations, to site fees for her caravan at a NSW resort, tickets to the circus, vet bills, video games, clothing, a home gas bill, insulation, and for items at supermarkets, retail stores, and the Fyshwick markets.

McGowan, who has pleaded not guilty, is now facing a string of fraud charges and was on Thursday committed to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court.

According to court documents, she allegedly disguised her personal purchases as expenses related to the Canberra bars and liquor sellers her company worked with.

One accusation is that she used the corporate card to pay for swimming lessons for her children in Kambah, telling management that someone from the swim school had done embroidery work on bar shirts and aprons.


Her son's school fees of $2441 were also allegedly put on the card, but claimed as "artwork" for the Bacardi Bar at the former ICBM nightclub in Civic, while police say a fake promotion at the Knightsbridge bar in Braddon was used to purchase Nintendo DS games.

A purchase of $680, purportedly for Grey Goose vodka imagery for the Knightsbridge and Parlour Bar in New Acton, was actually for custom made clear PVC awning covers for her home, police allege.

Water skis, life vests, wet suits, and lycra rash shirts were also allegedly purchased from Adrenaline Boardstore in Braddon, and explained to her work as purchases for a "surfboard promo" at a local venue.

One claim of $829 was made for "Channel V fashion awards for Foxtel Grey Goose menus and bags". Police say that money was actually spent on her and her husband's accountant's fees for their income tax returns. 

She allegedly made purchases at Super Toyworld and Hobbies in Fyshwick, and paid for her car registration, which she sometimes disguised as six month parking vouchers for work. 

Police say McGowan bought a wardrobe from Frisco Furniture and disguised it as "signage" purchased for ICBM.

She is even accused of inventing bars called Banque, supposedly in Manuka, which she used in an attempt to secure $15,000 from her company, and Reaction, a bar supposedly associated with the now-closed group of Civic bars, ICBM, Meche, and North Bar, which she used to secure roughly $14,000. 

Her alleged fraud was finally uncovered when the company realised she was spending $4000 to $8000 a month, a rate that often exceeded the annual amount her supervisors were spending. 

She was sacked in February 2011, and PricewaterhouseCoopers was brought in to conduct a forensic audit, the findings of which were referred to the Australian Federal Police.

Police say they obtained all the receipts McGowan had handed to her employer, and then tracked down receipts and invoices from various stores and suppliers, which often contradicted the explanations she'd given to Bacardi Lion.

McGowan is accused of often only giving an EFTPOS receipt, which didn't list the items purchased, or partially obscuring receipts when she scanned them. In some cases, she is accused of folding or cutting the receipts to hide the items she had purchased. Other times, she allegedly forged receipts to help justify her purchases.

The company realised that she was not complying with their credit card policy well before she was sacked, but did not actively enforce the breaches. 

McGowan, according to court documents, promised to improve her "very high rate" of lost receipts, but was given nothing more than a warning. 

That, police say, is because the company had put her in a position of trust as a regional manager. 

At one point during her time with the company, she was offered a promotion that required her to move to Sydney. She was told her moving costs would be covered, and later claimed $6600 for removalist fees. Police allege they later discovered she'd never moved to Sydney, and remained in Canberra or stayed with family in NSW.

Police have since raided her home in Ulladulla and seized items that were purchased using the company card, according to court documents. 

Magistrate Robert Cook committed her for trial on Thursday, and she will face the higher court for the first time next month.