‘I’ve been ripping you off for a long, long time’: Former accountant pleads guilty to fraud

  • In short: James Redmond Burrows has pled guilty to 113 fraud-related charges over four years. A court has heard he used his clients money to fund his gambling addiction
  • What’s next? His lawyer told the court Burrows has good prospects for rehabilitation. Sentencing submissions will continue on Tuesday

A former accountant has pled guilty to defrauding his clients and the Australian Tax Office (ATO) of more than $1.4 million to fund his gambling addiction.

James Redmond Burrows, formerly of Launceston but now living in Melbourne, pled guilty to 113 charges, read aloud individually in the Supreme Court in Launceston.

The court heard between November 2015 and February 2020, Burrows funnelled money meant for his clients into an account he referred to as his “fraud account”.

Burrows was the sole owner of JRB Accounting in Launceston.

In the Crown’s statement of facts, prosecutor Simone Wilson told the court Burrows would retain his client’s income tax returns or GST tax refunds for himself, putting it into the account before using it on gambling.

He also used the money to pay the tax obligations of his other clients.

Some business clients were defrauded by almost $300,000.

Ms Wilson said in 2019, Burrows began confessing his crimes to some of his clients as they became suspicious.

“He told one, ‘I’m in trouble, I’ve been gambling, I’ve been stealing money, I’ve been ripping you off for a long, long time’.”

He told another customer he was $800,000 in debt due to gambling on horses, sport, greyhounds and at casinos.

Small businesses granted him unrestricted access to their online banking systems in order to manage their taxation.

‘I would have cleaned you out’

Ms Wilson said he would make transfers out of their accounts to the JRB Trust account, which he would then put into his fraud account and immediately spend.

The offending was a mix of fraudulent income tax and business tax claims, claiming money that his clients weren’t entitled to, like franking credit dividends, or stealing the money directly from client accounts and claiming it was for a legitimate purpose.

When he told one of his clients, who was also a friend, Kate Gibson, she immediately changed her online banking login details and changed accountants.

Even despite this, the court heard he tried to take more money from Ms Gibson’s account a short time later.

Burrows told police he called her and said “if you didn’t change your login details when you did, I would have cleaned you out”.

James Burrows pleaded guilty to 113 fraud related charges.(ABC News: Erin Cooper-Douglas)

Burrows pleaded guilty to state charges of 44 counts of computer-related fraud, 23 counts of fraud, 28 counts of inserting false information as data, one count of stealing by agent and one count of stealing.

Guilty pleas were also entered for 16 federal charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Devastating impact on victims, court hears

Burrows turned himself in to Tasmania Police, telling him he had been “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, but after he was charged, he initially pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution detailed the impact the fraud had on Burrows’s clients.

Ms Wilson said because many of the income tax returns were paid to JRB Accounting, not Burrows as an individual, the ATO cannot compensate the individuals affected.

A couple was unable to put down a deposit on a first home because they never received their tax return.

Ms Wilson read a victim impact statement from Garry Roberts, a long-time client of Burrows, who said Burrows had “destroyed his life”, and that he now struggles to pay for the cancer treatment he needs.

“He told me not to worry, he could help, but the only person he helped was himself,” Mr Roberts said.

“I’ve had multiple mental breakdowns and I’ve had to sell my business and the house I brought my children up in. If James Burrows went to prison for the rest of his life, it still wouldn’t be enough.”

The prosecution applied for all the fraudulently obtained money to be paid back to whom it was owed.

Ms Wilson described the offending as “sustained, deliberate and calculated”.

“The accused has not made any attempts to repay his clients or the ATO,” she told the court.

Burrows’s lawyer, Cameron Scott, said his client takes full responsibility for his actions.

“Mr Burrows acknowledges that his conduct was an egregious abuse of his position as a chartered accountant,” Mr Scott told the court.

“He’s genuinely and deeply sorry … he’s genuinely remorseful for his actions.”

Justice Robert Pearce questioned that assertion.

“‘I feel terrible for doing this but I’m going to do it anyway’, is that what this amounts to?” Justice Pearce asked.

In response, Mr Scott pointed to a psychologist’s report that he said explains some of Burrows’s behaviour.

Mr Scott said in 2019, Burrows’s had been suicidal and his gambling addition had been “out of control and severe”, but that he’d been abstinent since April 1, 2023.

He said his client’s addiction stemmed from many of his family members betting regularly from when he was a small child, normalising the practice.

Mr Scott said Burrows had good prospects for rehabilitation.

Sentencing submissions continue on Tuesday.


Source: abc.net.au

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