A former Wollongong finance manager in the NSW Police Force has been convicted of misappropriating funds after he cashed and pocketed a cheque that was mistakenly issued to him.
Terry Evans, 51, fronted Albion Park Local Court where he was convicted of stealing property as a clerk and dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.
An agreed set of facts said the Flinders man had been the NSW Police Force's finance manager in the Southern Region Command for 10 years, working in Wollongong, where his duties involved working directly with police to facilitate monies required for operational duties.
On November 14, 2019, Evans made a request for a cash advance of $4400 for a Strike Force operation and the accounts section approved the payment by electronic funds transfer however a cheque was also issued in error. Evans withdrew the transferred money and provided it to an operative.
Ordinarily, if a cheque is issued in error, it should be cancelled by the accounts services, however this did not occur.
Evans was responsible for ensuring appropriate procedures were followed when requesting cash advances and should have returned the cheque.
He was also responsible for arranging two signatures on the cheque prior to banking it. The quality assurance manager was the other person authorised to sign cheques but he had retired.
Investigating police showed the manager a copy of the cheque which purported to carry his signature but he had not signed it and the signature was wrong.
It was revealed Evans had not removed the authorisation from the retired manager as requested.
It was not until December 3, 2020, when Evans was on non-work related sick leave, that he went to Westpac Bank's Wollongong branch and presented the $4400 cheque, dated November 15, 2019, to the teller.
Evans cashed the cheque and asked for $100 denominations. The teller later told police Evans appeared to be on official business and seemed his normal, confident and relaxed self, with CCTV also revealing he was wearing his official police identification.
The Southern Region Command business manager was notified the cheque had been banked more than 12 months after the cash advance was provided, prompting an investigation and ultimately Evans being charged.
In court on Friday, Evans' lawyer Michael Mandicos made an application to have the case dealt with under the Mental Health Act where Evans would be required to attend treatment for six months as opposed to being convicted.
He submitted Evans suffered from anxiety, depression and adjustment disorder, which was diagnosed in March 2020, and it caused him initially to go on sick leave before he was medically discharged from his employment in April.
Mr Mandicos said Evans was "significantly remorseful" and the criminal proceedings had a big impact on his life before adding he had a "long road to recovery" especially with regaining employment.
He added the money had been repaid and Evans had served in the police force for 30 years with no criminal history.
However, Director of Public Prosecutions' Elissa Costigan opposed the application noting the material from Evans' doctors did not address how his mental health caused him to commit the dishonesty.
"He used his role and trust to obtain money," she said. "There was a degree of planning and an abuse of trust of his position."
In determining the application, Magistrate Susan McGowan noted the seriousness of the charges, which each carried a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, and the community's expectation that Evans be dealt with under the law.
"I find absolutely no causal link whatsoever between the offending and his conditions," she said. "He made deliberate and well-thought-out actions in my view."
She also added the treatment plan was only for six months and it needed to be more comprehensive.
Evans then formally entered pleas of guilty to the charges.
Mandicos also submitted Evans' actions were "out of character", a single issue of "misappropriation" and there was no explanation his client could provide as to why he cashed the cheque as he and his family were not in "dire need of money".
"Mr Evans has served the community well until this hiccup," Magistrate McGowan said. "The sum is not, in my view, an insignificant amount of money and the cashing of the cheque took forethought."
Evans was convicted and placed on a community corrections order for 12 months where he must be of good behaviour and comply with the treatment plan of his doctors.
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