Business owner in GPC compensation rort faces $10,000 fine
THE owner of a Gladstone business that issued false receipts to Gladstone Ports Corporation workers in a bid to rort the corporation's health scheme is facing a $10,000 fine.
Gladstone Camping Centre owner Brett Wesley Bowman pleaded guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court to one charge of the intent to defraud by producing a number of receipts, knowing they were false, namely of products sold.
The court heard the offending involved about 78 GPC workers over four years between October, 2012, and September, 2016.
In 2017 investigations revealed GPC workers using the corporation's Health and Wellbeing Reimbursement Scheme incorrectly.
The scheme is a program to cover costs of health and wellbeing products and activities.
Under the scheme, GPC reimbursed workers up to $299 for equipment purchased, including fishing rods.
The purchase receipts and a compensation claim form would be filed with GPC and the employee would be reimbursed for the purchase.
But the scheme only allowed workers to be reimbursed for certain items.
Workers were being issued two receipts by Gladstone Camping Centre - the real document and a false.
An example used in court was one employee who bought a barbecue but was issued a false receipt that stated he purchased fishing rods.
Fishing rods were allowed under the scheme but the barbecue was not.
The worker was reimbursed by GPC compensation to which he was not entitled.
The court heard 83 false receipts produced by Gladstone Camping Centre were issued to workers to receive compensation payouts.
Police prosecutor Joel Sleep said Bowman had no criminal history and was a respectable man in the community.
Mr Sleep said the 55-year-old was facing charges that carried a maximum 10 years imprisonment.
Instead of jail time, Mr Sleep said it would be more appropriate to fine Bowman a sum of $10,000.
VAJ Byrne and Co Lawyers consultant solicitor Barry Ross asked the Magistrate not to fine his client nor record a conviction.
Mr Ross told Magistrate Dennis Kinsella he could produce supporting documents to show there were issues in the compiling of evidence against his client.
He also said without his client's assistance, police would have had a difficult time building a case against Bowman.
Mr Ross said GPC was a substantial corporation with about 700 employees. He compared it to Bowman's business of five employees, including himself and his wife.
Mr Ross told the court the GPC's scheme had fallen into "non-management" and employees did not know they were doing the wrong thing.
He said his client was unaware the receipts were being used in a filing process. Mr Ross told the court following the offending, the 78 workers involved in the rort were at threat of unemployment.
Mr Ross did not present any documents to the court, however, told Mr Kinsella he could access them if needed.
Mr Ross said before the police investigation began, a number of GPC staff members visited Bowman's store to "demand" an explanation into the offending.
Mr Kinsella told Mr Ross if he planned to substantiate and elaborate on the claims he would need to adjourn the matter to allow it more time.
Mr Kinsella said he did not want to rush Mr Ross and adjourned the guilty plea sentence part heard. The matter will be continued before the court on November 30.