stole $27 million
A university cash clerk who stole more than $27 million from Adelaide’s Flinders University was “naive” and “deluded”, a court has heard.
Christopher Wayne Fuss, 47, from suburban Glengowrie, pleaded guilty to a single charge related to taking more than $27 million from the university between 2008 and 2010.
In sentencing submissions at the South Australian District Court today, his lawyer David Edwardson told the court Fuss’s bizarre scheme was not motivated by greed but to make money for the university.
“If he was just a plain fraud one would have expected him to take off with the $27 million and he would be extradited from some foreign country,” he said.
“Nobody in their right mind would transfer $27 million to their bank account in their own name if that was your motivation.
“There must have [also] been an element of adrenalin holding himself out to be someone with access to that kind of money.”
The court heard Fuss made more than 58 transfers, six months into his $50,000-salary-range job, pouring money into his own and other bank accounts to make investments, and acting as a mortgage broker.
Fuss used some of the money to buy a $50,000 share in the Adelaide 36ers National Basketball League team, splashed $1.7 million on a family home, held $3.3 million worth of e-trading shares and gave $48,000 to a charity to help the homeless.
Judge Mark Griffin said many people who commit fraud deluded themselves they were doing no harm.
“It appears perhaps this was his way of justifying [theft] … was perhaps to convince himself that if A, B, C eventuated successfully there would be no harm,” he said.
Mr Edwardson said Fuss’s unsophisticated methods and failure to conceal his crime showed his naivety.
The court also heard Fuss was “deluded” by “shady” characters into an investment scam.
“He was never motivated by self-gain … he was clearly deluded by those behind the bank placements,” Mr Edwardson said.
Prosecutor Gary Phillips said Fuss breached the trust of his employer and colleagues.
“Mr Fuss effectively used the university as his own personal bank account,” he said.
The judge acknowledged Fuss had co-operated with police to recover most of the stolen money.
“It does seem amazing that it went undetected for so long … it is just staggering that there were no audits and safeguards to pick that up,” he said.
Fuss is due for sentence on June 28.