Ronald Shirley pleaded guilty to fraud when he faced Townsville Magistrates Court.
Ronald Shirley pleaded guilty to fraud when he faced Townsville Magistrates Court.

Carer ripped off $47,000 from vulnerable man

A DISABILITY support carer fleeced almost $50,000 off his vulnerable victim to fund everything from his insurance and groceries to video games in a heinous breach of trust.

Ronald Phillip James Shirley spent eight months draining the bank account of Scott Jorgensen, a man with Huntington's disease - a condition which causes a loss in cognitive, physical and emotional function.

Shirley was sentenced to two and half years' jail after pleading guilty to fraud when he faced Townsville Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Tim Madsen said the fraud of more than $47,000 occurred between February and October 2018 while Shirley was working, up to 38 hours per week, as Mr Jorgensen's primary carer.

"During the care of Mr Jorgensen the defendant has breached his trust and made a series of transactions using effectively internet banking credits and withdrawals," Sgt Madsen told the court.

"The largest of those was a $19,000 bank transfer in which money was moved from Mr Jorgensen's savings account into (Shirley's) bank account."

The 27-year-old carer funded much of his life with his victim's money.

The court heard Shirley bought groceries, paid his insurance and bought fuel with Mr Jorgensen's money.

Shirley also fraudulently bought flowers for his wife and linked Mr Jorgensen's bank account to his own PayPal account. Sgt Madsen said the fraudster also set up his victim's money to pay for video game purchases through his X-Box.

"Mr Jorgensen states that he trusted Ronald completely with all his financial and personal matters which is why he had access to these accounts," Sgt Madsen said.

"The offending was not necessarily for need … many times it was simply for greed."

Defence barrister Alex Raeburn said Shirley had been diagnosed as a Kleptomaniac - someone with an irresistible urge to steal. Mr Raeburn said as a consequence of his offending Shirley lost his job and his wife separated from him.

"This is a very serious breach of trust by my client he accepts breach of trust," he said. "The diagnosis supports that this is just behaviour that he could not stop. My client is embarrassed to be before the court and ashamed."

Mr Raeburn said Shirley intended to pay the money back in full and had an immediate payment of nearly $14,000 ready to hand over.

Shirley was working for North Queensland wellbeing services provider Selectability.

Chief Executive Officer Debra Burden said the company had concerns about Shirley and instigated performance management.

"He subsequently resigned and it was several months later that all this came to light," Ms Burden told the Bulletin.

"We continue to provide care for Mr Jorgensen … our people were in court supporting him today."

Magistrate Howard Osborne issued a parole release date for Shirley at April 7, 2020, after which he will serve 22 months under supervision in the community.


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