Stephen Raymond Douglas ‘would bet on the odds of a cockroach crawling up a wall’.  Picture: Lindsay Moller
Stephen Raymond Douglas ‘would bet on the odds of a cockroach crawling up a wall’. Picture: Lindsay Moller

Punt addicted accountant stole $1m from client mates

An accountant addicted to gambling who would place a bet on the odds of "a cockroach crawling up a wall" has been jailed after stealing more than $1 million from clients who were his friends.

Stephen Raymond Douglass, 66, appeared in prison greens in the NSW District Court on Friday after being found guilty of taking money from family-run Arc Attack Engineering, which had hired him as their accountant.

The court was told between 2010-2017 Douglass repeatedly misappropriated payments from the mid north coast-based company that were supposed to be going to the Australian Taxation Department but instead were funding his insatiable gambling habit.

Stephen Raymond Douglas ‘would bet on the odds of a cockroach crawling up a wall’.  Picture: Lindsay Moller
Stephen Raymond Douglas ‘would bet on the odds of a cockroach crawling up a wall’. Picture: Lindsay Moller

Douglass, who was living in Coffs Harbour, used online gambling websites to place bets everyday on horse racing, AFL, rugby league, rugby union and also sports in the US including baseball and basketball.

It was not until Arc Attack's owners, Warren and Sheenah Whitten, were forced into voluntary administration in 2017 that Douglass admitting to his offending; "it was inevitable that his offending conduct would be exposed".

Crucially, liquidator Steve Nicols of Nicols & Brien previously said were it not for the misappropriation "this company would not be in liquidation".

In handing down his sentence, Judge Michael King was scathing in describing how Douglass had deceived his friends for years while they trusted him.

Warren and Sheenah Whitten were forced into voluntary administration. Picture: Lindsay Moller
Warren and Sheenah Whitten were forced into voluntary administration. Picture: Lindsay Moller

"He was their trusted personal and business accountant for a significant period of time - he clearly breached that trust on a regular and continuing basis for years," Judge King said.

"The amount of money was in excess of $1 million and almost $1.1 million dollars.

"It is not difficult to understand the high degree of stress which must have inevitably been caused to the offenders' friends by the financial position he placed the company in when it otherwise appeared to be a successful and significant business."

The court heard Douglass had struggled with a serious gambling addiction for all of his adult life.

The addiction began early when he went to phone boxes to place bets to an SP bookmaker for his mother, who was also a problem gambler.

Judge King said it was a "tragedy" he never learnt from his mother's mistakes.

Douglass was sentenced to a minimum of four years behind bars. He will be eligible for parole in November 2022.

He blew kisses to family members before being led back into the cells.


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