Man jailed for stealing from Balcatta and Wangara businesses

Stock image.
Stock image.

A MANAGER with a gambling and methamphetamine problem has been jailed after embezzling nearly $130,000 from two refrigeration businesses in Balcatta and Wangara.

David John Higginbottom (57) faced Perth Magistrates Court this morning after pleading guilty to 116 offences including 62 charges of stealing as a servant and 54 charges of theft.

Magistrate Edward de Vries said the crimes were too serious for a suspended sentence, despite the father-of-two having a “faultless” record, and jailed him for 14 months.

“The offending was clearly linked to your abuse of methamphetamine and gambling,” he said.

“The court simply won’t tolerate this degree of dishonesty… this is a substantial amount you stole.”

The court heard Higginbottom was $30,000 in credit card debt.

He initially pleaded not guilty and was set to stand trial.

But he changed his plea after negotiating to have some of his stealing as a servant offences reduced to the lesser charge of stealing.

Prosecutor Genevieve Cleary said the offences began after Higginbottom became a contractor for the Balcatta branch of Victoria-based company Coldpoint.

In 2013, Higginbottom, as sales manager, began directing payment from customers into his own account after having a dispute with the company over bonuses he believed he was owed.

This continued undetected until November 2014, by which time he had stolen nearly $95,000 from the business.

Higginbottom was sacked.

The qualified fridge mechanic then found employment, also as a manager, at the Wangara branch of Air Conditioning Wholesalers.

Again, he directed customers to pay invoices into an account in his name rather than the business.

He accumulated nearly $33,500 between April 2016 and January 2017.

Ms Cleary pushed for an immediate jail term.

She highlighted the fact that, while a payment dispute led to the first case of offending, the second case had no such explanation.

“He went to an extremely innocent company who did everything right,” she said.

Defence lawyer Curtis Ward conceded a jail sentence was likely but made submissions for a suspended term so Higginbottom could continue psychology sessions he had begun.

“If an immediate term of imprisonment is ordered, these (mental health) issues will manifest,” he said.

He said his client felt “powerless” when he was not receiving the pay he felt he was owed.

Higginbottom had a long history with methamphetamine after first using it when he was 46.

Mr de Vries acknowledged Higginbottom’s mental health issues, but did not consider it a strong enough reason to keep him out of prison.

He also fined him $20,000 in relation to 76 of the lesser charges.

He ordered he pay $94,657 compensation to Coldpoint and $33,494 to Air Conditioning Wholesalers.

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