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Jail for former exec who stole $500K from ACTTAB

Simon Wheeler at a cheque presentation, during his days as an ACTTAB executive.

Simon Wheeler at a cheque presentation, during his days as an ACTTAB executive.

For 12  years Simon Patrick Wheeler built a reputation as a family man, with a promising career at the territory’s betting agency.

But he was leading a double life, siphoning funds from ACTTAB to feed the “buzz” he gained from his gambling addiction.

On Friday, the former senior executive who stole more than $500,000 from the government-owned agency was sentenced in the ACT Supreme Court to five years’ jail.

Wheeler, 42, pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining property by deception after the original 107 charges were merged into one count of fraud.

The court heard that Wheeler, of Palmerston, was employed by ACTTAB for 12 years. He was the head of finance and operations, where he answered only to the chief executive.

It was during this time that he developed a gambling addiction and his life began to unravel.

His wife left him briefly in 2007. Wheeler repaired the marriage but  was unable to end his addiction.

He had financial statements sent to work so his wife would not see them and he wagered via a number of online betting agencies.

By 2009,  he had debts of more than $100,000 despite the fact that he had a well-paid job.

To feed his addiction, Wheeler generated 107 false invoices and channelled $517,284 into three bank accounts between December 2009 and March 2012. The thefts ranged from $2400 to $13,000, according to court documents.

Fraud squad detectives uncovered his offences after a five-month investigation.

Wheeler told the court he was relieved when he was caught. He knew the embezzlement was wrong but he loved the “buzz of having a gamble”.

“I hated myself and hated what I was doing but I couldn’t stop,” he said.

He said the hardest part was confessing his crimes to his two children. He has since undergone intensive counselling.

Chief Justice Terence Higgins accepted Wheeler’s contrition.

“I’m sure you feel the disgrace of this moment ... but the court has no option but to sentence you to a term of imprisonment,” Chief Justice Higgins said.

The judge jailed Wheeler for five years, with one year to be served full-time.

Chief Justice Higgins ordered Wheeler serve a further six months’ jail as weekend detention, with the remaining time to be suspended.

Justice Higgins also ordered he enter a four-year good behaviour order.

Wheeler lost equity in his home as a result of the offences.

Before the sentence, the court ordered that $107,000 of equity in the family home be transferred to the territory.

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