'Hurting': Trust disappears at club after fraudster strikes
THE woman behind a $33,000 sporting club fraud in Gladstone has now been banned from the financial advisory sector.
Linda Rae Whelan was found guilty this year of defrauding the Past Brothers' Junior Rugby League Club in Gladstone. She was sentenced to two and a half years' jail, immediately suspended.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has now banned Ms Whelan from providing financial services or engaging in credit activity. Whelan previously worked as a financial planner but stepped down once the charges were initially laid.
Between October 31, 2013 and June 20, 2014, Whelan misused her position as treasurer of rugby league club by drawing cheques from the organisation's account which Ms Whelan cashed for her own benefit.
Past Brothers' Senior Rugby League Club president Adam Wright said it took more than two years to retrieve the money.
He said this put unwanted pressure on the club to make up the lost funds, including by increasing club membership fees.
Mr Wright said the ordeal also "tarnished" the club's reputation.
"We lost volunteers and people wouldn't put their hands up, everyone just blended back into the shadows," Mr Wright said.
"Up until this year we've struggled to form a committee ... It's sad to see that.
"We're just glad it's over and we're moving on. We've had to run a very tight business and we have cut costs where ever we could in the past two years."
Past Brothers' president David Ahern said Ms Whelan's actions had cast a shadow of doubt over the club's future.
"It definitely hurt morale and trust," he said.
"That makes everyone really cautious … This casts suspicions on people who really don't deserve that."
Mr Ahern has been involved with the club since 2002, and was the senior club's president when Ms Whelan was treasurer for the juniors.
"I watched from afar," Mr Ahern said.
"(Her actions) went close to sinking (the junior club).
"It's definitely frustrating … They were down to just a couple of thousand left in the bank, which is nowhere near enough."
As a result of Ms Whelan's actions, the club lost $33,419.11. She left Gladstone immediately the charges were laid in 2014.
Mr Ahern said there was plenty of fundraising and volunteer-work to save the club after the financial loss.
This Sunday he is hoping to re-elect a committee for the senior club, after junior committee roles were filled last weekend.
The club, which will celebrate its 50th birthday next year, will host an AGM on Sunday at 11am at the Brother's seniors shed.
"It's a really good club, our motto is there's brothers and there's others," Mr Ahern said.
Ms Whelan has until November 11 to appeal ASIC's ban.
Gladstone criminal investigation branch's Luke Peachey speaks to media about the sentencing in June: