No proper checks on man charged with $10.2m fraud
LACK OF CHECKS
A lack of adequate background checks allowed a man charged with one of Queensland's biggest cases of alleged fraud to land two different finance jobs at companies now scrambling to audit their books.
Brisbane police alleged this month that Paul John Montgomery swindled $10.2m from his former employer, civil engineering group RDS, over the 10 years to 2017.
City Beat has learned that after he was fired as general manager of RDS, Montgomery started working in early 2018 for Neta Tire Service and Sales in Northgate.
It's understood that Montgomery's CV falsely claimed he had left RDS in 2012 and since then had worked as a self-employed consultant.
Senior figures at RDS confirmed this week that they were never contacted by Neta to provide a reference for Montgomery.
Neta boss Gary Kendrick did not return a call on Friday but we've been reliably told the family-owned company, which generated a $1m net profit last year, is now forensically reviewing its accounts.
After leaving Neta early last year, Montgomery responded to a Seek ad for a job as a "financial controller for a major licensed club in Brisbane''.
It was the Wynnum Manly Leagues Club and they hired Montgomery for the position, which he started in June 2019 and where he remained until last week.
The club tapped Brisbane headhunter Geoff Wohlsen to conduct the search. But RDS executives told your diarist that they were never approached by Wohlsen to vouch for Montgomery.
Wohlsen hung up on City Beat when we rang for a chat this week and he again declined to comment Friday.
Club CEO Craig Thomas and chairman Bruce Baxter failed to respond to multiple phone messages this week.
Former board members tell us the decision to use Wohlsen was never discussed at a meeting of directors. They only learned after the fact that Thomas had quietly retained his services to find a new financial officer.
Records show the club's surplus nosedived to $388,434 in the year to September 2019, down from $1.47m a year earlier. The club's auditor, Simon Hancox from advisory firm Grant Thornton, would not comment this week.
That's not all.
Both Neta and the club failed to review a Federal Court case launched against Montgomery by the Gurney family, which has operated RDS for more than 50 years.
They won court orders in early 2018 to freeze Montgomery's assets, which included three homes, among them a luxury pad up at Port Douglas.
After selling the properties for about $2m and settling related costs, the Gurneys recouped only about $560,000.
They also shelled out around $1m on accounting and legal services after Montgomery left RDS, where he first started work in 2004.
Montgomery had been a childhood friend of the Gurney family and they considered him almost like a brother, frequently socialising and travelling together.
Montgomery could not be contacted on Friday and his counsel has declined to comment. He has not yet entered a plea in the case and his matter returns to court on September 7.
BEATING THE RONA
One of Queensland's wealthiest business identities has beaten COVID-19.
Springfield City Group deputy chairman Bob Sharpless and his wife, Belinda, learned they both had coronavirus after returning from a trip to London in March.
Sharpless told us they suffered a bit of nausea, lethargy and loss of appetite while overseas but only confirmed they had the dreaded disease once they were tested back in Australia.
The couple are now in the clear after self-isolating and have been helping researchers by donating blood plasma.
News of the drama emerged as Sharpless and his longtime Springfield business partner Maha Sinnathamby announced plans this week to donate $6.5m for medical research at the Mater Foundation.
Fittingly, the gift coincided with a socially-distanced celebration for Springfield's launch 28 years ago.
Originally published as No proper checks on man charged with $10.2m fraud