A CONVICTED fraudster who landed his “dream job” as the corporate sales executive of the Newcastle Knights has been jailed for a maximum of three years after he defrauded the club of more than $57,000 by “selling” corporate boxes and season tickets to fictitious business owners.
It was an unusual fraud case; other than his continued employment, Matthew Ninness, 37, did not gain any financial advantage from five fraudulent transactions he made between December, 2017, and February, 2018.
Convicted of credit card fraud in 2015, Ninness was in the midst of having a 400-hour community service order revoked when he started his dream job at the Knights. And despite claiming through his solicitor on Friday that he had made about $1 million in legitimate sales for the Knights during his brief tenure, an intense desire to “hit targets” and be an “invaluable employee” led him back to his old fraudulent ways.
Employed on November 20, 2017, to sell the club’s match day hospitality packages, it took less than a month before Ninness began generating fraudulent transactions; making up a company name, owner, ABN, mobile number and putting the fake client down for corporate box tickets, season launch seats and car park passes.
Rather than hitting targets, those fraudulent transactions were blocking the sale of those seats to anyone else, leaving the Knights at a financial disadvantage.
Solicitor Keppie Waters told Magistrate David Price that Ninness could be adequately punished by imposing a backdated jail term to reflect the nearly six months he had spent behind bars and ordering another community service order.
But Mr Price disagreed, saying Ninness’ criminal history, his failure to complete a community service order last time and the amount of money involved in the recent frauds meant there was no other alternative than a full-time jail term.
“There is clearly a need for general deterrence in matters of this nature,” Mr Price said. “In my view it is very important that the court send a clear and consistent message to people placed in positions of trust that they cannot act in a fraudulent manner and if they do there will be severe consequences.”
He ordered Ninness serve a two-year non-parole period, making him eligible for release in July, 2020.