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Matthew Hanks: Ex-Surf Life Saving boss jailed for fraud

A former Surf Life Saving NSW general manager who defrauded the charity of $1.8 million has been jailed for three years and three months.

Matthew Hanks was sentenced in the NSW District Court on Friday after pleading guilty to six fraud offences which took place between 2007 and 2016.

Matthew Hanks, right, avoids reporters following his arrest. Madeline Crittenden
Camera IconMatthew Hanks, right, avoids reporters following his arrest. Madeline Crittenden Credit: Supplied

The court previously heard the 52-year-old father-of-three used numerous methods to fraudulently obtain the money, including by secretly selling SLS NSW cars to himself at a wholesale price and then selling the vehicles to private buyers at a higher price.

Without disclosing a potential conflict of interest, Hanks also started a business called See Hear Speak, which SLS NSW paid to do printing work Hanks was secretly subcontracting out to cheaper providers in order to pocket the difference.

Judge John Pickering said the “saddest of all” frauds was one Hanks committed in 2012 which was “one of pure greed” and involved a grant meant to fund a new club house in Port Macquarie.

“This one was a fairly brazen act and it’s almost extraordinary that the accounting procedures of SLS NSW could so easily let him have a government grant, slightly change the cheque details and have it put into his account for $121,000 and no one seemingly noticed until he was prosecuted for this matter and the whole thing was fully investigated,” he told the court.

“By the time of the government grant, he’d realised that unfortunately SLS NSW was simply just not managing him in a way to even detect anything he was doing, it was almost too easy.”

Matthew Hanks has been convicted of six fraud offences and jailed.
Camera IconMatthew Hanks has been convicted of six fraud offences and jailed. Credit: Supplied

Judge Pickering said Hanks had paid $1.05 million back to SLS NSW since he resigned from his position, at which time he also paid another $168,000.

“Sure it was gains he wasn’t lawfully entitled to, but to suggest that there’s not been already, financially, just in that figure, significant impact on the offender would be just untruthful,” he said.

“Likewise, to pretend that SLS NSW have not received back significant money already to put them back in a better position would also be misleading, which to some extent the victim impact statement was perhaps misleading.

“They also received insurance in relation to their loss.”

Former Surf Life Saving NSW boss Matthew Hanks leaves Wollongong Local Court on October 1. Picture: Madeline Crittenden. 
Camera IconMatthew Hanks was found to have displayed remorse for his actions. Madeline Crittenden. Credit: NewsLocal

Although the court heard Hanks used the money he took to pay for a yacht and mortgage debts, Judge Pickering said Hanks was remorseful.

“He may not have complete true complete insight why he did this, he may not even have true complete insight into the way it impacted SLS NSW … but I think he has some insight into the way he behaved and has genuine regret,” Judge Pickering said.

“He did actually care for the organisation, he did actually have some good friends there, he did actually work very hard there and life isn’t always as simple as black and white. Humans are complex.”

After making a finding of special circumstances, including that Hanks’ time in custody would be harsher because it was his first time behind bars and he suffered anxiety and depression, Judge Pickering jailed him for three years and three months.

Hanks is due to become eligible for parole in September 2023.

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