Mario Di Fiori travelled the world for more than five years at the expense of hard-working Australians.
Yesterday, the Figtree fraudster experienced a different kind of taxpayer hospitality, spending his first night behind bars after being convicted of fleecing more than $250,000 from the Australian Taxation Office in an elaborate, ongoing scam.
Di Fiori had earlier pleaded guilty to rorting federal tax laws at least 30 times between 2004 and 2010, using bogus identities and fake businesses to claim $260,000 in backdated GST refunds. He used the money to fly around the world, making multiple trips to see family in Italy.
Di Fiori, who at 45 years old still lived at home with his parents, was sentenced in Wollongong District Court yesterday to a minimum 15 months’ jail.
He was also ordered to repay all the money he swindled.
The court heard Di Fiori used up to nine false names, often different spellings of his Christian name and surname, to create 27 different companies or registered trusts.
He then registered the enterprises with the Australian Taxation Office, often recording himself as a director, before requesting each business’s establishment date be backdated.
‘‘He then commenced the lodgment of false Business Activity Statements [BAS] for those past periods,’’ ATO documents before the court said.
‘‘The defendant continued to lodge backdated BAS until such time as he reached the current lodgement period or the ATO began questioning claims made.’’
Di Fiori’s scam wasn’t uncovered for several years, despite the ATO carrying out audits on the fake companies.
Sentencing Di Fiori yesterday, presiding judge Paul Conlon described the scheme as ‘‘systemic fraud’’ involving a ‘‘relatively high degree of cunning’’.
Judge Conlon came to that conclusion despite the court being presented with multiple reports from treating psychologists describing Di Fiori as ‘‘borderline mentally retarded’’.
Judge Conlon noted doctors also said Di Fiori demonstrated several traits that led them to believe he had a sharp IQ, including having a formidable memory and strong social skills.
‘‘He has a capacity to dream and scheme,’’ one treating psychologist surmised.
Di Fiori had previously claimed to have been ignorant of the BAS system, not really knowing how to fill out any of the forms. He even told the court he could use simple calculators to add the figures up, but found ‘‘the ones with the funny symbols’’ too hard to work.
However, the court was subsequently told Di Fiori had studied accounting and financial services at TAFE and had excelled in all subjects, especially the BAS component, where he received a high distinction grading.
Judge Conlon said he was satisfied greed had been Di Fiori’s main motivation in committing the offences.
The court heard Di Fiori had a criminal record that included several past convictions for fraud and financial deception, as well as a previous prison sentence for attempted rape.
He will be eligible for release in January 2015 and will be required to serve an additional two years on parole.