AN "arrogant" serial fraudster funded his passion for horses by stealing a huge amount of cash from an iconic charity that provides riding therapy for hundreds of Queenslanders with disabilities.
Former treasurer of Riding for the Disabled Queensland Kerry Charles McLean will spend at least two years in jail after pleading guilty to two fraud charges in Brisbane District Court on Wednesday.
The 68-year-old failed businessman stole just over $271,000 from the RDAQ in 2015 and 2016.
He used $154,000 buying and keeping race horses and the rest of the money paid his bills and funded his gambling habit.
The RDAQ board initially asked McLean to help it apply for government grants because he had had some success at this while working for the junior sporting group, Crown prosecutor Sarah Klemm said.
It seemed no-one at the RDAQ had any idea McLean had a criminal history, including convictions for similar offending in NSW, Gympie and Brisbane.
Impressed with McLean's contribution to the RDAQ, the board then asked him to become the charity's treasurer.
It was an unpaid role but he accepted the job, Ms Klemm said.
Ms Klemm said this appointment allowed McLean to take full advantage of the RDAQ's lax accounting protocols and its decision to roll out new accounting software.
When the new software was in place, McLean restricted the organisation's administration staff's access to the program.
Describing his crimes as "arrogant", Ms Klemm said he then duped board members into signing blank cheques that he later filled out and deposited in his own bank accounts.
McLean covered his tracks by producing dummy invoices for fencing, jumps and other items.
He also lied on the cheque stubs and kept a fake accounts ledger.
"You wrote and deposited 44 cheques for your own purposes," Judge Brian Devereaux said while sentencing him.
"You completely gained the trust of others in the organisation and you had total control over its affairs.
"Your contribution to the organisation has been negative, causing disruption and a loss."
A book-keeper raised suspicions when she was asked to reconcile the information in the accounting computer and the figures in McLean's ledger.
Judge Devereaux said the worker told the board members, but when McLean was interviewed he only admitted to stealing about half the amount.
McLean's defence barrister Chris Minnery told the court his client stole the money because he believed he felt it was unfair that he was "working very hard but not getting paid".
Mr Minnery said his client also committed the frauds because he could not cope with his wife's drinking, his daughter's drug use and the fact that he was caring for his grandchild.
Judge Devereaux sentenced the father of three to six years in jail with parole eligibility in January 2020.
RDAQ has 17 volunteer-run equestrian centres across the state, providing therapeutic horse riding and other opportunities for 500 people with disabilities at any given time.
It relies on donations, sponsorships and government grants to fund its activities.
The RDAQ did not return NewsRegional's request for comment. - NewsRegional
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