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Compulsive gambler defrauds $300k

A COMPULSIVE gambler who defrauded a Bundaberg drug and alcohol rehabilitation service of almost $300,000 has been jailed for six-and-a-half years by a Toowoomba judge.

Warren Edwin Attfield, 62, had no criminal history in Australia when he applied for and won the financial officer's job at the Yaamba Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Men in February 2006.

What the corporation didn't know was that Attfield had been jailed in New Zealand in 1996 after pleading guilty to defrauding his woodchip milling and exporting company employer of $2.8 million.

Attfield, a compulsive gambler, had lost it all betting on horse races at the TAB and was jailed for five years, Crown prosecutor Noel Needham told Toowoomba District Court.

After his release from prison in New Zealand, Attfield and his wife had moved to Australia and eventually settled in Bundaberg after he secured the job with Yaamba, which primarily runs a drug and alcohol rehabilitation hostel.

He had not gambled since leaving New Zealand but, 11 years later, had succumbed to the temptation after following his supervisor into a TAB in Cairns during a work conference in early 2007, Mr Needham said.

After blowing his own money gambling over the next six months, Attfield resorted to old habits and started misappropriating funds from the Yaamba corporation.

Over a 30-month period from July 2007, he made 276 fraudulent transactions through company credit card, cheque and electronic money transfers to steal about $295,000.

When it appeared the corporation did not have enough money to pay staff wages, Attfield went to his supervisor and confessed.

He then left the area and moved to Toowoomba, where he lived alone in a one-bedroom flat surviving on Centrelink benefits, his family having disowned him.

Solicitor Andrew Taylor, who appeared pro bono for Attfield, told the court his client had made two repayments to Yaamba including $9500 in January 2008 and $19,500 in June 2009.

Attfield had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and stress and, after he left Yaamba, had spent two weeks in hospital and five weeks in a psychiatric unit.

His client was remorseful for his behaviour, had co-operated with police, pleaded guilty to the charge of fraud and had not gambled since, Mr Taylor said.

Judge David Andrews SC sentenced Attfield to six-and-a-half years' jail, ordering he be eligible for parole from May 25, 2014.

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