FORMER high-profile Warrnambool businessman Jeremy Rae has been convicted and fined $7500 for stealing more than $30,000.
Rae, 40, now of Mullaloo, Perth, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court yesterday to seven counts of theft.
Rae previously ran the Good Guys electrical store which opened during December 2005 at the east Warrnambool Homemaker Centre in a joint venture with Muir’s Electrical.
The thefts were discovered in September 2010 after Muir’s initiated a stocktake and sent letters requesting payment were sent to customers with cash-on-delivery sales dockets.
Customers’ responses indicated that payments had been made either directly into Rae’s personal account or by cash between October 2009 and August 2010. Police alleged those payments were not deposited into the account of the Good Guys and eventually all the debts were written off by Muir’s Electrical.
Stock was supplied to Ace Radio ($3500), Adapt Australia ($10,560), Nathan Gleeson ($2000), Beatroot Pty Ltd ($1100), Central Motel ($3700), Jamie Hinz ($2370) and two customer paid cash of $10,251 for electrical goods which were personally delivered.
Defence counsel Tony Robinson said he could not remember a more concerned client and tendered three psychological reports and a raft of references to the court.
Mr Robinson said his client had been caught in a chaotic situation which led to the offences being committed.
He told the court Rae had made a new life for himself and was working in the finance industry.
Magistrate Jonathan Klestadt said the offending was clearly a breach of trust involving Rae’s joint venture partner and had resulted in the defendant obtaining a substantial amount of cash.
He said Mr Robinson had submitted there was no gambling or addictive behaviour funded by the thefts and there was no evidence that Rae had been living a lavish lifestyle. The magistrate said the offending occurred over a significant period of time, but was in no way sophisticated and doomed to be discovered by the joint venture partner.
“The cause of your behaviour was rooted in your personal problems,” Mr Klestadt said.
The magistrate said those problems included discovering his father illness, the cause of that illness and his death which led to Rae assuming responsibility for his mother who then became ill and passed away.
Mr Klestadt said Rae’s parents dying had an extremely detrimental effect on the defendant’s mental health which led to a significant level of depression and anxiety.
He said soon after his mother’s death that Rae entered into the joint venture business partnership which led to him working extremely long hours for little financial reward.
The magistrate said there was a significant benefit to the community through sponsorship and considerable personal status which coincided with a manic phase of bipolar-type disorder which was mentioned in one medical report.
He said the charges had been whittled down from 61 to just seven charges involving $30,171 and although that was a significant amount it was dramatically less than the original figure alleged stolen. There was no application for compensation and Mr Klestadt noted no individual customers had been left out of pocket.
“I accept you have not benefited from your business venture in any way, shape or form and have now relocated to Perth where you have establish a new life and identity with the assistance of your sister and her family,” he said.