Clubs Get to Keep $3.7 Million in Stolen Funds
A Tasmanian businessman has called for gambling operators to be forced to pay back stolen funds. Greg Zeuschner is almost $3.5 million out of pocket after one of his former employees stole from him.
Zeuschner, an industrial chemist, set up UltraColor 42-years-ago. He had plans to retire but, like most, needed a nest egg to do so. Zeuschner thought all his Christmases had come at once when four international businessmen approached him with an offer to buy him out. What should have been an exciting time turned into a nightmare, however.
Vicki Clerke worked as Zeuschner’s personal assistant for 17 years. Little did Zeuschner know, Clerke was feeding her gambling habit with stolen funds. Clerke approached Zeuschner 15-minutes before he met with the four businessmen and came clean.
She admitted to regularly stealing from the business and believed the figure was into the hundreds of thousands. $3.7 million was the actual figure of the stolen funds. Clerke put all the money through pokie machines at St Marys Rugby League Club and Windsor RSL.
Millions In Stolen Funds Lost Forever
Clerke worked for UltraColor from 1999 and began stealing in 2001. She hid her theft by creating dummy bills for suppliers before paying the funds into her personal bank account.
Zeuschner was distraught. He not only trusted Clerke with the financial side of his livelihood but treated her like a family friend.
Police arrested Clerke and launched an investigation. Her bank statements showed no signs of a lavish lifestyle. All her money, including the stolen funds, went into poker machines.
Clubs in NSW keep records of player activity by the laws of the state. Windsor RSL cooperated with Clerke’s bankruptcy trustee. It revealed approximately $240,000 went through its machines over five years.
St Marys Rugby League Club was less accommodating and refused to reveal Clerke’s gambling record, citing privacy reasons. The courts stated the remaining $3.4 million in stolen funds went to St Marys. The figure is “considerably lower,” said the club.
The club has its own rugby league stadium, more than 400 pokies, and a 47,000-strong membership base.
Treated Like a VIP
A psychologist at Clerke’s trial told the jury Clerke suffered from anxiety and low self-esteem. As a result, she would have revelled in the attention shown to her by the club’s VIP team. A gaming attendant from the club spoke to ABC about Clerke and her gambling.
“She was quiet and pretty much kept to herself. But she was lovely. She would come in at night and would often leave at closing, at 04:00. She was one of the big spends. I was told she was the number one gambler in the club.”
The gaming attendant revealed Clerke attained Pink Diamond VIP status, the highest the club offers. This entitled her to free soft drinks, coffee, and meals, although people close to Clerke claimed she received even more benefits and gifts. The club denies the added extras.
An Estimated $20 Million Spent
Clerke received a four-year jail sentence in February 2021. Zeuschner calculated Clerke put $20 million through machines, including stolen funds from his company.
“I have done a spreadsheet which takes into account the fact poker machines are required to repay 85% of what is put into them. So taking into account her winnings, plus the original stolen funds, I estimate that she put more than $20 million into that club.”
Zeuschner managed to recover $235,000 from Clerke’s bankruptcy, so is at least $3,465,000 out of pocket. He is down even more, however, because the proposed sale of his business fell through.
Rod Desborough is the CEO of St. Marys Leagues. ABC asked him if the club had any intention of returning the stolen funds.
“Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, businesses are not expected to repay money spent with them in this manner unless they knew the money had been stolen. We did not. St Marys Rugby League Club had no knowledge of the criminal conduct of the individual in question.”
Desborough’s reply is a washout. At no point did the club challenge where Clerke’s money came from. Despite driving a 2002 Hyundai and earning $750 a week after tax, she spent millions upon millions of dollars. The club, undoubtedly, has to take some responsibility.