Accountant jailed over $119,000 con

A FORMER Ipswich accountant will spend more than two years in prison for defrauding two clients of more than $119,000.

Brett Cameron Smallwood, 51, yesterday changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on the third day of his trial at the Ipswich District Court.

Smallwood was re-arraigned with the jury present and pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud with aggravating features.

He hesitated for a moment before saying "guilty" after each charge was read out.

Supported by family members in the public gallery, Smallwood sat with his head in his hands as Crown prosecutor Caroline Marco read out comparable sentences.

The court heard Smallwood, through his firm Beecham- Smallwood, kept $119, 918.61 from

the tax returns of two clients, Kensington Investments and MGB Maintenance Services, in 2002.

Smallwood used the money to pay his own legal bills and to invest in a company he was the sole director of called Garden Markers.

His fraud was discovered in 2009 when experienced accountant Denis Neilsen took over Smallwood's accounts and noticed the discrepancies with Kensington International.

When forensic accountants investigated that matter they discovered further fraudulent behaviour with regard to another firm, MGB Maintenance Services.

The court was presented with documents Smallwood claimed were evidence he had permission to invest the money and had informed the clients of the investments.

However, in pleading guilty he admitted to forging the documents, which Judge Greg Koppenol described as "so amateurish it was almost laughable."

The court heard the money that had been invested in Garden Makers had been whittled away to nothing, and Smallwood, whose membership of the Society of Chartered Accountants has since been forfeited, didn't have the money to pay back the debt.

His defence told the court at the time Smallwood had $1 million of debt, including $600,000 of personal debt and $400,000 of company debt.

He said he had invested the money with the intention of making it back and returning it to the complainants, but Ms Marco disputed this.

Judge Koppenol said Smallwood's behaviour had been an "affront to every honest accountant in the country."

"Your fall from grace has been significant," he said.

"You lied and engaged in forgery to cover your tracks."

Smallwood was sentenced to five years imprisonment but will be eligible for parole after 25 months, on October 9, 2015.

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